Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Jan. 10. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90

Israel approves additional 3,000 homes in West Bank


Israel has approved plans for another 3,000 new homes in the West Bank.

The approvals by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman were announced Tuesday, ahead of the evacuation of the Amona outpost, and are seen as an effort to placate the government’s harder right wing and settlers angry over the evacuation.

While most of the approvals are for areas in the settlement blocs that Israel believes it will keep under a future peace deal, several of the approved housing units are located in other areas deep in the West Bank.

Some 2,000 of the approvals are for immediate construction, and the rest require various stages of planning, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The statement said the approvals are “part of a return to normal life in Judea and Samaria, as well as conduct which provides real solutions to housing and living needs.” Judea and Samaria are biblical designations for the land now called the West Bank.

The approval comes a week after Netanyahu and Liberman approved 2,500 housing units in both settlement blocs and in other areas, and the approval by a Jerusalem municipal committee of 566 housing units in Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.

Netanyahu introduces new government during Knesset session


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced his new government during a Knesset plenum session.

In presenting Israel's 33rd government, Netanyahu on Monday afternoon called on the new government to work together with the same spirit of cooperation as the last government, which he also led.

“Our primary concern is to guarantee the future of the Jewish people by guaranteeing the future of the State of Israel, the root of our existence,” he told the lawmakers.

The Knesset approved Likud party lawmaker Yuli Edelstein as Knesset speaker, replacing Reuven Rivlin.

During the session, Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Liberman, the former foreign minister, said his party would seek to prevent the renewal of any construction freeze in West Bank settlements.

Prior to Netanyahu's introduction of his new government ministers, members of the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party walked out of the Knesset chambers in an apparent protest at not being included in the new coalition.

Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich, the opposition leader, in her speech welcomed the new government and told the lawmakers, “We are your opposition. Today we are launching the national debate with you, about what this country is and what is the Zionist vision.”

The ceremony included a moment of silence in memory of a former Knesset member Marina Solodkin, who died in Latvia following an anti-facism conference.

The new government includes 68 of the Knesset's 120 parliamentarians. It features Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu faction, the Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid, the Jewish Home party led by Naphtali Bennett, and Tzipi Livni's Hatnua Party.

The ministers are scheduled to be sworn in on Monday evening.