The Israeli government said on Wednesday that it would immediately advance plans to build 1,000 new homes in a settlement in the West Bank that was attacked a day earlier by Palestinian gunmen, in a move that further entrenches Israel’s 56-year occupation of the territory.
The decision came after extremist Israeli settlers set fires in several Palestinian villages on Tuesday and Wednesday, damaging scores of cars, buildings and farmland as they sought revenge for the shootings outside the settlement of Eli on Tuesday night.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the planning decision, which will require further government approvals before construction begins, was a direct response to the attack outside Eli. Two fighters from Hamas, the Islamist militia that controls the Gaza Strip, killed four Israeli civilians at a restaurant and gas station next to Eli, before being killed themselves.
“Our answer to terrorism is to strike at it forcefully and build up our country,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement that was also issued on behalf of his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, and finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right former settler activist.
Mr. Netanyahu’s response highlighted the balance he is attempting to strike between assuaging allies in his far-right coalition — who are pushing him to exert even greater control over the West Bank — and cementing diplomatic ties with Arab governments, who want him to reduce tensions with the Palestinians in the territory.
Mr. Netanyahu’s decision was praised by his far-right allies, who also hope that he will authorize a new military campaign against militias in the West Bank. But it is set to worsen relations with Israel’s new Arab partners, some of whom had already expressed anger this week at an earlier Israeli decision to expand and expedite settlement construction.
Morocco recently postponed a long-awaited diplomatic summit with Israel in protest at the settlement expansions, diplomats from Israel and other countries said on Wednesday.
Like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Morocco signed a landmark diplomatic agreement with Israel in 2020, ending years of diplomatic isolation for Israel in the region.
But while all three Arab countries have since hosted several Israeli ministers and increased military cooperation with the Israeli government, they have all expressed reservations about Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
Similar concerns are expected to stymie Mr. Netanyahu’s long-stated intention of forming formal ties with Saudi Arabia, despite a major push by the Biden administration to forge such a deal.
Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Jerusalem.