Israel approves more than 1,900 new settler homes: NGO

Israeli watchdog Peace Now says settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories has vastly increased under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and since his ally US President Donald Trump took office in 2017 (AFP Photo/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel has approved the construction of 1,936 new settler homes on occupied Palestinian territories, watchdog Peace Now said Monday.

The green light was given on Sunday and Monday, Peace Now said, adding that 89 percent of the new homes will be erected in "settlements that Israel may have to evacuate under a future peace agreement with the Palestinians".

The watchdog says settlement building has vastly increased under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ally US President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu has been fighting for his political survival faced with corruption charges and after failing to form a new coalition government following April and September elections.

The premier, who was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, is now facing a third general election in March.

"Despite lacking a clear mandate, for this caretaker government it's business as usual -- continue the massive promotion of harmful and unnecessary construction in occupied territory and in places that Israel will have to evacuate," said Peace Now in a statement.

"Netanyahu continues to sabotage the prospects of peace, dragging Israel into an anti-democratic one-state reality resembling apartheid."

According to Peace Now, 1,150 of the units were approved for "deposit" or phase one of the planning process.

A total of 786 units received final endorsement, including 258 that are to be built in Haresha, an "illegal outpost" west of the city of Ramallah on the West Bank, the watchdog said.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

Its settlements are deemed illegal under international law and widely seen as the main obstacle to peace.

Some 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.

Late last year, the Trump administration said it would no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied territories illegal.

The move was hailed by Trump ally Netanyahu while Palestinians have been outraged.

The European Union, United Nations and others have stressed, however, that they continue to consider settlements illegal.

According to Peace Now, the number of new settler homes approved by Israel has almost doubled since Trump took office in January 2017.