The Israeli cabinet has voted to expand the list of illegal West Bank settlements eligible for government subsidies, just days after the resumption of talks with the Palestinian Authority in which settlements are a major issue.
Ministers on Sunday approved a new "national priority map," a list of poor communities earmarked for housing subsidies and other benefits.
Included on the list are 91 settlements in the occupied West Bank, up from 85 on the previous version. Many of them are in areas which would almost certainly be evacuated by Israel in a deal with the Palestinians.
Three of the newly-added settlements - Rehelim, Sansana and Bruchin - were until recently considered "illegal outposts," which means they were built without government approval. Their status was normalised last year by a cabinet vote.
This is exactly what Israel wants ... a free hand to destroy the objective of the [negotiation] process.
Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian negotiator
Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, and the United Nations and much of the world treats them as such.
The vote comes just days after Palestinian and Israeli negotiators flew to Washington for their first face-to-face meeting in three years. more