Smotrich: Israel will continue to allow the construction of more settlements (Reuters)

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich pledged to continue expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank, defying international pressure on Israel to stop construction on the occupied Palestinian territories.

Late yesterday, Tuesday, Smotrich announced approval for the construction of a new settlement called “Mishmar Yehuda” in “Gush Etzion,” a group of Jewish settlements located south of Jerusalem.

Smotrich said, "Israel will continue to allow the construction of more settlements. We will continue the settlement momentum throughout the country."

Smotrich, who leads one of the far-right pro-settler parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government, lives in a settlement and consistently supports the construction of more settlements.

Shlomo Neman, mayor of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, said, “This is also our response to the countries of the world... We will continue on our path and strengthen Gush Etzion with more residents, more schools, more roads, and more kindergartens.”

Last week, Israeli ministers agreed to a planning council meeting to approve the construction of about 3,300 homes in the settlements, a decision that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken considered “disappointing Washington.”

Blinken said that the administration of President Joe Biden considers the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be in conflict with international law, which means a return to the old American position that the administration of former President Donald Trump deviated from.

The Trump administration supported Israel in 2019 in building settlements in the West Bank by abandoning the long-standing American position that it “violates international law.”

This change returned the United States to the position adopted by most countries in the world, considering settlements built on lands occupied by Israel in 1967 as illegal.

Israel opposes this view, claiming that there are historical and biblical ties of the Jewish people to the land.

Palestinians say the expansion of settlements across the West Bank is part of a deliberate Israeli policy to undermine their ambition to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Israeli "Peace Now Movement", which monitors settlement expansion, said in a report last January that there has been an unprecedented increase in settlement activities since last October 7.

According to a report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, just under 700,000 settlers live in 279 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, compared to 520,000 in 2012.

Source: Agencies