The international community considers the Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands illegal.
Israeli authorities have approved the construction of new settlement units in the Israeli settlement of Efrat in southern Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
Efrat is one of the fastest growing settlements in Gush Etzion, and the second largest community in the bloc with over 9,000 residents.
All settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. Nevertheless, Israel has pursued their construction and expansion as a policy since it occupied the territory in the 1967 Six Day War, along with the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.
Weeks ago, France, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Turkey rejected Israel’s plans to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
"Such actions are illegal under international law and call into question Israel’s commitment to any future peace agreement with the Palestinians," Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt stated.
Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians. Following the Oslo Accords between Palestinians and Israelis, the West Bank, where Palestinians hope to found their independent sovereign state, was divided into three areas.
Area A, which in theory falls under full Palestinian control and makes up 3 percent of the West Bank. Area B which makes up 25 percent of the West Bank and is under joint control by Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces. In reality, the two areas are regularly raided by Israeli forces with no consequences and do have some illegal Jewish settlements.
The largest is Area C, with about 70 percent of the West Bank, where Israel has full administrative and military control and where most of the settlements have been built by successive Israeli governments.
Settlements play an important role in Israeli right-wing politics, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with settler leaders earlier Wednesday in Jerusalem as politicians began to enter campaign mode.
Netanyahu's right-wing government agreed at the end of 2018 to dissolve parliament and call for early elections on April 9 this year.