Netanyahu’s incoming hardline govt lists West Bank settlement expansion as No. 1 priority

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JERUSALEM: Benjamin Netanyahu’s incoming hardline Israeli government put West Bank settlement expansion at the top of its priority list on Wednesday, vowing to legalise dozens of illegally built outposts and annex the occupied territory as part of its coalition deal with ultranationalist allies.
The coalition agreements, released a day before the government is to be sworn into office, also included language endorsing discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds, contentious judicial reforms, as well as generous stipends for ultra-Orthodox men who prefer to study instead of work. The package laid the groundwork for what is expected to be a stormy beginning for Netanyahu’s government and could put it at odds with large parts of the Israeli public and Israel’s closest allies abroad.
Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians seek the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state. In the decades since, Israel has constructed dozens of Jewish settlements there that are now home to around 5,00,000 Israelis living alongside around 2. 5 million Palestinians. Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
In response to a request for comment, the Palestinian leadership emphasised that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved only through the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. Without a negotiated two-state solution, “there will be no peace, security or stability in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Biden administration has said it strongly opposes settlement expansion and has rebuked the Israeli government for it in the past.
Netanyahu’s new governmentis made up of ultra-Orthodox parties, a far-right ultranationalist religious faction affiliated with the West Bank settler movement and his Likud party. In the coalition agreement between Likud and its ally, the Religious Zionism party, Netanyahu pledged to legalise wildcat settlement outposts considered illegal even by the Israeli government. He also promises to annex the West Bank “while choosing the timing and considering the national and international interests of the state of Israel. ” Such a move would alienate much of the world.



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