Today’s announcement that the Israeli government is moving full steam ahead with the construction of nearly 1300 new settlement units should surprise nobody.
The announcement paves the way for construction in Pisgat Zeev and Ramot (settlement neighborhoods of East Jerusalem), as well as in the huge and extremely controversial settlement of Ariel—a settlement located smack-dab in the middle of the northern West Bank, in a location that makes its inclusion as part of Israel under any realistic borders scenario pretty much impossible.
Today’s announcement is no surprise for two reasons. First, because starting about 2 weeks ago it became clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu was opening the settlement floodgates, particularly in East Jerusalem. In addition to today’s announcement, we’ve seen approvals of plans in Gilo, Har Homa, East Talpiot, and the Mount of Olives—and more approvals are clearly on the way. Today’s announcement is just part of that flood.
The other reason this is no surprise is that Netanyahu has plenty of reasons, foreign and domestic, for doing this now. In terms of domestic politics, early elections are only a short time away, and Netanyahu and his right-wing allies are eager to burnish their credentials with the settlers and their supporters—just in time for Likud party primaries (scheduled for November 25).