Israel's Ben-Gvir calls for more settlements despite international concern

Security Minister says nine settlements retroactively approved on Sunday are 'still not enough'

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel's new far-right security minister, attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Reuters
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Hardline Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called for many more Jewish settlements on Tuesday after European and US foreign ministers expressed concern over a recent decision by Israel to authorise settler outposts.

Mr Ben-Gvir made the comment in a video message amid international calls for a de-escalation of tension between Israel and the Palestinians after months of violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

“The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” he said in a video message that followed a statement of concern from Washington and its European allies, France, Germany, Italy and Britain over the decision to legalise the outposts.

On Sunday, Israel granted retroactive authorisation to nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank and announced the mass construction of new homes in established settlements, prompting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to say he was “deeply troubled” by the move.

No comment was immediately available from Israel's foreign ministry but Mr Ben-Gvir, from the hardline religious nationalist bloc in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, said he wanted to go even further than the decision announced on Sunday.

“This is our mission. This our doctrine,” Mr Ben-Gvir said.

“Nine settlements is nice but it's still not enough. We want much more.”

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Most world powers consider settlements on land captured in the 1967 war between Israel and Arab countries to be illegal. Israel disputes this, however, and since the war, it has established 132 settlements, according to watchdog group Peace Now.

As well as the authorised settlements, groups of settlers have built scores of outposts without government permission. Some have been razed by police, others authorised retroactively. The nine granted approval on Sunday are the first for this Netanyahu government.

Earlier, the foreign ministries of France, Germany, Britain and Italy joined the US in warning against settlement expansion on land the Palestinians see as the core of a future state.

“We strongly oppose unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution,” they said in a statement.

Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the joint statement but said action needed to be taken.

“We demand that words be turned to deeds,” he said on Twitter.

Updated: February 14, 2023, 10:52 PM