Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pledged to formally annex settlement blocs on Jerusalem's outskirts and build hundreds more housing units in the West Bank's largest settlement, Israeli media has reported.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu -- during a visit to Ma'ale Adumim, the largest settlement bloc in the Israeli-occupied West Bank -- reiterated his commitment to building 4,000 new Jewish-only housing units in occupied East Jerusalem.
"We will intensify the development Ma'ale Adumim," he asserted. "We will build thousands of housing units, along with the necessary industrial areas, with a view to stepping up the area's development."
He further stated that his government would support a "Greater Jerusalem" bill that would allow the Jerusalem municipality to annex 19 major settlements, including Ma'ale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Givat Ze'ev.
"I support the 'Greater Jerusalem' bill, which will enable Jerusalem and its communities to develop in many different ways," Netanyahu added.
If passed, the bill would add an estimated 125,000 new settlers to those already living outside Jerusalem's municipal borders -- a move that would swing the city's demographic balance in favor of its Jewish population.
At the same time, roughly 100,000 Palestinians now living in Jerusalem neighborhoods -- but outside Israel's West Bank separation wall -- would be administratively cut off from the city.
Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the Jewish state's "eternal" capital in a move never recognized by the international community.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Jewish settlement-building there as illegal.
Palestinians, for their part, accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to "Judaize" Jerusalem with the aim of effacing its historical Arab and Islamic identity and driving out its Palestinian inhabitants.
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