Netanyahu Promises 300 New Homes In West Bank
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Israel's prime minister has promised to build 300 new homes in the occupied West Bank. The move is meant to appease settlers who are outraged by the defeat of a bill that would've essentially legalized Jewish settlements built on private Palestinian land.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro was in Jerusalem today where the settler community voiced its discontent with of the bill's failure.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Chanting and blocking roads, hundreds of settlers descended on Israel's Knesset. But the vote did not go in their favor. Prime Minister Netanyahu did not support the bill and told his party and his coalition that anyone who voted in favor would be censured, and so it suffered a resounding defeat.
Nataniel Epstein(ph) is a 26-year-old settler who lives in Hebron.
NATANIEL EPSTEIN: We have a right to this land not given to us by flesh and blood; given to us by the creator of the whole world and the whole world knows this. That's why there is a state of Israel. That's what all our struggle is about.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This latest battle was prompted by an Israeli Supreme Court order to dismantle part of the illegal settlement outposts of Opana by July 1st. The bill quashed today would have retroactively legalize Jewish housing in the West Bank that was built on private Palestinian land, if the buildings had been there for more than four years.
The international community sees all settlements as illegal, but Israel only views those that were built without government permission as unauthorized. Netanyahu had has agreed to have the Opana outpost removed. But he also promised today 300 new homes will be built in the West Bank to replace the five that will be evacuated.
In a speech today, Netanyahu said, quote, "there is no government that would support the settler movement more than the one I had. We will continue to strengthen the settlement movement and strengthen our democracy."
DAVID HOROWITZ: He found a way where he's honoring the Supreme Court. On the other hand, he is, as he put it himself, he is strengthening the settlement enterprise. For Netanyahu, this is a win-win solution.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Horowitz is the former editor of The Jerusalem Post, a center-right paper in Israel. He said had the law passed, Israel would have been seen as flouting its own laws in pursuit of ideology. Now, because there are no peace talks with the Palestinians, and no real international pressure, Netanyahu can do as he likes.
HOROWITZ: And the fact is, I don't think Netanyahu feels he's really yet being put on the spot on the settlement issue - that's the irony of the context. The Palestinian leadership is saying, we won't talk to you until you stop building in the settlements. And Netanyahu is saying, well, I want to talk to you - but if you not to talk to me, well, then I can carry on fostering my ideological commitment to the settlements.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yariv Oppenheimer is with the Israeli settlement monitoring group Peace Now. He says Netanyahu is acting with cynical calculation.
YARIV OPPENHEIMER: He's actually giving a prize to the people that broke the law and took over land that belonged to other people.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the decision to expand the settlement, which he said would hurt peace efforts.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.