Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the immediate construction of 300 settler houses in Beit El, the occupied West Bank site where settlers clashed with police after the plans were revealed for the demolition of their homes. A 29 July statement from Netanyahu's office said that after consultations "the immediate construction of 300 homes in Beit El has been authorised" and the building approval for another 504 in annexed East Jerusalem has also been issued.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day war. Settlements built beyond the Green Line are illegal under international law, opposed by the international community including Israel's core US ally, and considered a huge hurdle to a peace deal with the Palestinians.
The statement said that the 300 units in the West Bank were pledged three years ago after the demolition of other houses in Beit El. According to Haaretz, the coordinator of government activities in the occupied territories, Yoav Mordechai, has already signed a permit to sell land for construction in the area. The municipality will be able to issue construction permits within 15 days.
Netanyahu came under pressure from his own Likud party, and pro-settler right-wing party Jewish Home, which is led by his Education Minister Naftali Bennett, to react to the Israeli High Court ruling to advance demolition of illegal settler buildings in Beit El. Bennett praised the prime minister's decision saying: "This decision is a Zionist response. This is the way in which we build our country".
The demolition order upheld by the Israeli High Court regarded two structures being built illegally in Beit El. They were on private Palestinian land seized by the Israeli army in the 1970s. Settler groups clashed with police as they were trying to prevent the demolition at the site. Authorities used water cannon and detained several settlers.
Around 250 right-wing settler activists were evacuated under order of Israel's defence minister Moshe Ya'alon from the two buildings. The group, a mixture of families that left the settlement of Sa-Nur 10 years ago and pro-settlement activists, were illegally occupying the buildings and were forcefully removed after refusing to leave the site.
The action appears to have shaken Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right coalition, which he cobbled together after March's election with a number of pro-settlement and ultra-nationalist parties.
Ya'alon's decision to send the troops into Beit El was backed by other senior politicians but hard-line former allies of Netanyahu as well as the prime minister himself have supported the settlers in the past.