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Israel okays massive construction project in West Bank settlement: report
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19:15, June 29, 2009

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Israel's Defense Ministry has green lighted a plan to build over 1,000 new housing units in a West Bank settlement, reported local daily Ha'aretz on Monday.

Out of the 1,450 homes the ministry approved in May in the Adamarea north of Jerusalem, 190 will be built in the initial stage, the report quoted the State Prosecutor's Office as saying in a statement issued late last week to the Supreme Court.

Among the planned units, 50 have received final approval, which are intended to accommodate settlers set to be evacuated from an unauthorized outpost, according to the report.

The whole plan has gained the nod from senior government officials, settlement organization representatives and settler leaders, the report added.

The settlement expansion plan came to light shortly before Defense Minister Ehud Barak leaves for the United States in another bid to narrow the gaps with the Jewish state's most important ally over the settlement issue.

However, a media advisor to Barak dismissed the report of the grand construction plan. While confirming the approval for the 50 homes, the adviser was quoted as saying that "all other reports speaking of the construction of 1,450 housing units are erroneous, tendentious and incorrect."

The U.S. government has repeatedly urged Israel to freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, while Israel has so far not backed down from its demand to allow the so-called "natural growth" of settlements, only promising not to build new settlements or expropriate more land for existing settlements.

Under mounting pressure from the international community, Barak is expected to propose during his visit two potential compromises on the matter: a temporary complete settlement freeze, or limiting the building in settlement blocs to high-rise construction only, according to Ha'aretz.

Yet any concession on the settlement issue would be likely to encounter great resistance from within the government, where the dominant right-wing parties traditionally hold hardline stances on all the key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Source: Xinhua

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