Israel greenlights settlement building projects despite moratorium:report

15:15, December 03, 2009      

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Israel on Wednesday approved the construction of dozens of buildings in West Bank settlements despite an announced restrain on settlement activities the government was trying to enforce, reported local daily Ha'aretz.

The Jewish state's coordinator of government activities in the West Bank gave the official go-ahead for the 84 buildings after the political echelon had authorized the projects, added the report without elaboration.

Meanwhile, local news service Ynet reported that the list of the newly surfaced structures, which will include 492 housing units in a number of settlements, was approved last summer.

The news came amid a gush of confrontations between West Bank settlers and government inspectors as the former attempted to block the latter from enforcing the 10-month moratorium on settlement construction that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week. Several settlers, including a settlement mayor, were arrested.

Against such a backdrop, the Ha'aretz report said that it is possible that Wednesday's green light is meant as a goodwill gesture to West Bank settlers ahead of a meeting on Thursday between Netanyahu and settler leaders.

Since Netanyahu announced the construction restraint, right-wing settlers and politicians have become increasingly vocal against the policy and have vowed to defy it, despite the government's pledge for strict enforcement.

In a bid to soothe the settlers and ease the tensions, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday invited settler leaders for urgent talks, yet reportedly many of the invitees refused to meet.

On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu reiterated his stance that the current settlement policy is a one-time, temporary deal and the construction will be resumed once the time frame ends.

While Israel stressed that the moratorium marked a rare compromise by the Jewish state aimed to revive the stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, the Palestinian side called it insufficient, as the restraint excluded some 3,000 settlement housing units already approved and construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians said that they would not return to the negotiation table until Israel totally freezes its construction in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, an Arab-dominated section of the holy city that the Palestinians want to be the capital of their future state.

Source: Xinhua
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