Occupied Palestine (QNN)- Israeli occupation Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has promised not to freeze the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, but said there will be no annexation.
During a meeting held on Thursday with leaders from the Yesha Council, the main settler advocacy group, Bennett discussed the development of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
According to Israeli media reports, the leaders from the Yesha Council agreed to continue working with Bennett to advance those issues.
An unsourced report from the Israeli Kan public broadcaster said that Bennett told the settler leaders that he was “committed” to illegal settlements and won’t freeze construction there, and repeated his statement that there will be no annexation.
Bennett told The New York Times in an interview published last month — a day before his arrival in Washington to meet the US President Joe Biden — his government “will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that.”
He told The New York Times that he would continue “natural growth” expansion of the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In the last few weeks, settler leaders have held protests outside Bennett’s office warning that he was “drying out the settlements.
Bennett is known for being an outspoken advocate of Israeli annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, and he is strongly associated with the settlements, having led the Yesha Council.
Bennett also vowed that his government will back the expansion and construction of illegal settlements in all areas of the occupied West Bank.
Last July, Israel Hayom reported that Bennett had placed a “de facto freeze” on the building of illegal settlements and their expansion under US pressure, as he had refused to allow members of Israel’s Supreme Planning Council in the occupied West Bank to convene, thus preventing it from approving new construction and settlement expansion plans.
The newspaper wrote that this decision means a “complete freeze on future construction” of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank as long as the Supreme Council is prevented from meeting.
Thursday’s meeting was the first meeting with the Yesha Council since Bennett took office in May.
The previous government, under then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was supposed to set a date for a meeting of the committee, but Benny Gantz prevented it from doing so, insisting only the new government should do so, the newspaper said.
It also said that although Bennett has been in power for over a month, no date has been set, “this time due to American pressure.”
The Supreme Planning Council is responsible for approving construction plans for settlements’ expansion and infrastructure.
There are nearly 700,000 Israeli settlers living in 256 illegal settlements and outposts scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.