The Israeli government has published legal tenders to build 430 new settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to a report by Terrestrial Jerusalem, an advocacy group.
"It's the opening of the settlement floodgates," said Daniel Seidemann, head of the nonprofit group, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. He added that the announcements were the first since October 2014, though likely not the last before the March 17 general election.
“Today’s W Bank tenders could not be published without (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu’s explicit knowledge and consent,” Terrestrial Jerusalem said on its Twitter page. “Expect more and worse before elections.”
According to Terrestrial Jerusalem, the new homes will be built in four previously settled areas in the West Bank -- 112 in Adam, 156 in Elkana, 78 in Alfei Menashe and 84 in Kiryat Arba.
Seidemann said the new tenders were announced at an opportune moment, as Netanyahu’s Likud party is competing with other right-wing groups for the settler vote. “This could hardly have been an accident,” he told AFP.
Israel is holding general elections on March 17, after Netanyahu dissolved the ruling coalition and called new elections. His Likud party is facing opposition from a new left-wing coalition called "The Zionist Camp." According to a report by the Panels Politics Institute, a local polling agency, cited by The Associated Press, only 38 percent of Israelis want Netanyahu to be reelected.
In recent months, officials in the United States have also begun to distance themselves from the embattled Israeli official, with a planned speech before Congress earning the ire of Senate Democrats. President Barack Obama described the speech, which is scheduled for March, as “inappropriate” in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
"I'm declining to meet with him simply because our general policy is, we don't meet with any world leader two weeks before their election," Obama said.
The latest move by the Israeli government comes after Palestine’s bid to join the International Criminal Court, with the hopes of finding a mechanism to bring further sanctions against Israel, was accepted in early January, the Guardian reported. Israel’s ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank is considered illegal under international law, and is opposed by the U.S. and the international community.
Since gaining control of the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel has settled about 500,000 of its citizens in the occupied territory.