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Israel Okays 2,500 New West Bank Settlement Homes

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel on Tuesday unveiled plans for 2,500 housing units in the West Bank, the second announcement of new construction in the occupied territory since President Donald Trump took office.

The announcement of construction of the new units in "Judea and Samaria" — the Biblical names for areas the Israeli government considers Jewish by right — will likely be viewed by much of the international community as an obstacle to securing a permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli West Bank Settlements: What It's Like Living in a Divided Land 1:49

The Palestinians and most of the international community consider all settlements illegal.

On Sunday, Jerusalem municipality announced the construction of about 670 homes in contested east Jerusalem.

In late December, the U.S. declined to block a resolution by the U.N. Security Council reprimanding Israel for its settlements in the West Bank. But Trump — at that time the U.S. president-elect — tweeted the resolution would "make it much harder to negotiate peace."

The Trump administration is seen as more sympathetic to the current Israeli government than was former President Barack Obama.

Image: Palestinian laborers work at the construction site of a new housing project in the northern part of the Israeli settlement of Efra
Palestinian laborers work at the construction site of a new housing project in the northern part of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, near the Palestinian West Bank city of Bethlehem, on Jan. 12, . Menahem Kahana / AFP - Getty Images

Trump has supported moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move seen by many Palestinians as provocative.

Deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Hotovely, tweeted in Hebrew that the new construction was part of a fundamental change in direction, and "there is no doubt that this is a blessed beginning."

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the settlement plans, saying they would hurt peace hopes and "promote extremism and terrorism," the Associated Press reported.

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"This decision is a challenge and provocation and disregard for the Arab world and the international community and requires a real and serious position from the entire world," Rdeneh said.

Peace activists quickly condemned the move, as well.

"Netanyahu is taking advantage of the change of administration in the United States in order to sooth settler pressure and gain political capital," a spokesman for Israeli NGO Peace Now said in a statement. "Instead of putting the two-state solution at risk, it is time for Netanyahu to take responsibility for the future of Israel by halting settlement construction and assuring the future of Israel as both Jewish and democratic."