11:39 GMT18 January 2021
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    Authorities in Israel have advanced plans to have nearly 2,200 settlement homes illegally constructed in the occupied West Bank.

    A committee within Israel's Defense Ministry charged with handling such projects approved the plans on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    A total of 2,191 settlement homes were advanced this week, with 1,038 clearing their final hurdle in the approval process before construction can begin. The remaining homes are still being processed.

    Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law. Members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seek to pressure international governments and companies into dropping business with entities that profit off of illegal Israeli settlements.

    Last week, the Israeli government aided a law firm linked to Israel's Mossad intelligence agency to pressure a US-based fundraising platform to ban BDS from using its services, Sputnik News reported.

    Airbnb, a home rental platform based in the US, also decided recently to ban home rentals in the West Bank, a move which the company has emphasized was not meant as an endorsement of BDS. Illegally occupied settlements in the Golan Heights and elsewhere, however, remain unaffected.

    Settlements are a major political issue in Israel, favored by Israel's ruling right wing. What the decision means for Israel's snap elections, announced on Monday, is unclear. Currently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also occupies the positions of Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, Immigration Minister and Health Minister and is also the subject of multiple corruption investigations. 

    Netanyahu met with settlement leaders on Wednesday, reportedly saying of the elections: "We'll see an attempt by the left-wing to overthrow our rule with the help of the media and others."

    "They can't succeed, because if they do — that will pose a clear danger to the settlement movement," Netanyahu added.

    Israel captured large swathes of Palestinian territory in the 1967 war and continues to illegally occupy East Jerusalem, Syria's Golan Heights, and the West Bank, according to multiple United Nations resolutions.

    In 2014, then-Housing Minister Uri Ariel said that 400,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank and an additional 350,000 have moved into East Jerusalem. According to a 2011 report by the BBC, an estimated 20,000 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights, although it isn't clear how that number has been affected by the Syrian civil war breaking out that same year.


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