JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hardline government on Sunday agreed to legalize nine settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, saying the move was a response to recent Palestinian violence. It said it would approve additional settlement construction in the coming days.
The decision put the government on a collision course with the Biden administration, which has called on Israel and the Palestinians to avoid unilateral actions that could further raise already heightened tensions and undermine hopes for a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The vote came two days after a Palestinian man careened his car into a Jerusalem bus stop, killing three Israelis, including two young brothers, and injuring several others.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli security forces sealed up the family home of the Palestinian attacker in a first step ahead of the possible demolition of the apartment.
Police released a video showing police and soldiers welding the doors and windows of the apartment in east Jerusalem shut. Netanyahu ordered the dwelling sealed immediately after the Friday attack.
Three Israelis, including brothers aged 8 and 6, were killed Friday when Palestinian driver Hussein Qaraqa careened into a bus stop in the east Jerusalem settlement of Ramot. Asher and Yaakov Paley's father was one of five people injured in the incident. Qaraqa, 32, was killed by police at the scene.
Addressing the Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said that the “appropriate response to terror is strike it with force and further deepen our roots in our land.” He said the government would discuss an “even broader operation against the perpetrators of terrorism” in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Late Sunday, Netanyahu's office said his Security Cabinet unanimously authorized the legalization of nine settlement outposts, which were built without authorization but have been largely tolerated by a string of Israeli governments. It said a settlement planning committee would meet in the coming days “to approve the construction of new homes in existing settlements” in the West Bank.
Israel’s new government, made up of ultranationalist parties who oppose Palestinian statehood, has placed expanding settlements at the top of its priority list.
Most of the international community considers settlements illegal and obstacles to peace. Som 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a future independent state.
During a visit last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would oppose “anything” that undermines hopes of a two-state solution, including settlement construction built on occupied lands sought by the Palestinians.
There was no immediate reaction from the Biden administration.
In Jerusalem, police had arrested and interrogated Qaraqa’s family almost immediately after he carried out Friday’s deadly attack. It said that a court had extended the detention of his two brothers and that the investigation was ongoing.
Qaraqa’s family said he had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder and had been released from a hospital just two days before the incident.
Israel says demolishing Palestinian attackers' homes serves as a deterrent meant to prevent future attacks. But human rights groups say the practice amounts to collective punishment and leaves relatives who had nothing to do with the attack homeless.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as capital of a future state.