New Israeli government pledges to develop tourism in the West Bank

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The tourism minister in Israel’s new radical government vowed on Sunday to invest in West Bank development, calling the occupied area “our local Tuscany”.

Haim Katz made the comments days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government
to take place
, pledging in its coalition directives to make settlement construction in the West Bank a top priority. His coalition includes far-right settler leaders in the highest positions.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East War and built dozens of settlements that now house around 500,000 Israelis.

The Palestinians claim the whole area as part of a future independent state and consider the settlements illegal – a position widely shared by the international community. Israel’s commitment to deepening its control over the West Bank has threatened to put it on a
collision course
with some of his closest allies.

At a ceremony Sunday, Katz said he would channel resources to promote tourism in the West Bank. “We will invest in areas that may not have received enough support to date,” he said. β€œFor example, our local Tuscany in Judea and Samaria,” he added, using the biblical term for the West Bank preferred by religious and right-wing Israelis.

The West Bank settler community has developed a small tourism sector that includes hotels, bed and breakfasts and wineries. Israel sees these industries as part of the country’s broader tourism sector, while international human rights groups have said they are deepening control of the occupied territory.

Airbnb in 2018 said it would ban listings in Israeli settlements, but quickly
under heavy Israeli pressure. Last year, said so
added warnings
to his lists there.

On Friday, the United Nations General Assembly called on the UN’s highest judicial body to
to give his opinion
on the legality of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu called the resolution “shameful” and said Israel was under no obligation to cooperate with the International Court of Justice.

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