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Trump could give Israel carte blanche to expand colonies

Israeli officials had previously stated their intent to exploit the election result to boost colony building

Gulf News

Occupied Jerusalem: Donald Trump’s presidential victory has dimmed hopes for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and analysts say Israel may be given carte blanche from his administration.

Some of Trump’s top aides challenge the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for a state and have claimed that the Palestinians are a made-up people.

That has cast doubt on whether he would ever question Israeli actions or even try to serve as a neutral broker.

“Trump’s administration may take a totally hands-off approach,” said Yousef Munayyer, a political analyst and executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “Israel would have free rein to dominate the Palestinians forever and ever if there is no external involvement.”

Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-colonist Jewish Home party, said after Trump’s Nov. 8 election that “the era of a Palestinian state are over.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman suggested Israel could cut a deal with Trump that allowed expanded construction in major colonies while freezing building in isolated parts of the West Bank. That would be a sharp break from Obama administration policy.

The Israeli regime on Wednesday revived plans to build 500 new homes for Jewish colonists in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem, an NGO said, a first since the US presidential election.

“This morning, the local planning and building committee made the decision to advance (plans)... for 500 units in Ramat Shlomo,” the Ir Amim anti-colony NGO said, referring to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish colony neighbourhood.

The plans had been on hold since 2014, it said.

The French government warned Tuesday the constructions in the 20,000-strong neighbourhood would be “illegal.”

The municipality downplayed its decision, saying the plans were “not new and were approved years ago.”

But Ir Amin’s Betty Herschman warned that similar decisions could follow.

“The political significance of this action is that it is the first plan to be promoted since the US elections,” she said.

Israeli right-wingers have been hoping that Trump’s upset presidential win will usher in an administration far less critical of colony expansion than that of outgoing President Barack Obama’s.

Herschman said that Israeli officials had previously stated their intent to exploit the election result to boost colony building.

Meir Turjeman, chairman of the occupied Jerusalem municipality planning committee, told public radio earlier in November that Trump’s victory provided a green light to revive suspended permits in occupied east Jerusalem.

He said the municipality intended to authorise thousands of housing units that had been frozen.

More than 200,000 Israelis now live in east occupied Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed.

The move was never recognised by the international community, which regards all Jewish colonies in the occupied Palestinian territories as illegal, including those in east Jerusalem.

Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.