On March 20, Barack Obama will make his first visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as president of the United States. He has been in this part of the world before, but in the capacity of a junior senator from Illinois. Just days after this major announcement from the White House, Israel divulged that it is approving hundreds of new settlement units in the West Bank, signaling once more its intent to change the geographical status quo (and thus the political landscape), which would affect the outcome of any future status agreement with the Palestinians.
Israel’s Defense Ministry rubber-stamped construction plans for 346 units in the settlements of Tekoa and Nokdim south of the West Bank. Additionally, 90 new units were slated to be built in the settlement of Beit El, just outside of Ramallah.