Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to build thousands of new homes in one of the West Bank's biggest Jewish settlements and annex it to Israel. The comments drew an angry condemnation from the Palestinians and created a new test for the Trump administration, which has been working for over eight months to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israeli PM Netanyahu said during a visit to Maaleh Adumim yesterday that he was announcing a period of "enhanced development." "We will build thousands of housing units here," he said. "We will add the industrial zone needed and the expansion needed to allow for the advanced development of this place." "This place will be part of the state of Israel," he added.
Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called Netanyahu's comments "totally unacceptable." "This is an attempt by Netanyahu to destroy the two-state solution and a clear refusal of any attempt to revive the peace process, especially by the United States," he said.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state and consider all of Israel's settlements to be illegal — a position that is widely shared by the international community. Israel says the settlements' fate should be resolved through negotiations.
Maaleh Adumim is a settlement of roughly 40,000 people just east of Jerusalem. It is considered strategic because it lies in the center of the West Bank, and making it part of Israel could greatly hinder Palestinian statehood aspirations.