Israel boosting settlement activities before vote: Official

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The Israeli regime is reportedly intensifying settlement activities in the occupied West Bank ahead of the March 17 general elections.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Israeli official said Tuesday that the outgoing cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pumping millions of dollars into public buildings and roads in the illegal settlements.

The official said former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who was fired by Netanyahu early this month, had held up the spending spree, saying the funding should go toward struggling middle class rather than for the settlements.

Opposition parties have criticized the cabinet’s move as a political ploy aimed at gaining favor with hard-line Israeli voters.

On Sunday, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) also approved a 3.3-million-dollar funding to build a tourist center at an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli opposition lawmakers condemned the ratification of the funds by the Knesset’s financial committee as “electoral corruption.”

They accused Netanyahu of trying to “please the settler lobby” before the elections.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu called for the dissolution of the parliament after sacking Minister of Judicial Affairs Tzipi Livni and Lapid from his coalition. The two ministers were among the critics of Netanyahu’s policies.

A recent poll showed Netanyahu’s approval rating has halved from 77 percent in August to 38 in December.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal by much of the international community because the territories were captured by Israel in the Six-Day War, and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

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