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Israeli NGO says settlement construction rising 20 pct in 2011

(Xinhua)

13:03, January 11, 2012

JERUSALEM, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) --An Israeli left-wing NGO said on Tuesday that settlement construction in the West Bank peaked during 2011, which the organization believes could further endanger peace negotiations, Ynet News reported.

In an annual settlement growth report titled "Torpedoing the Two-State Solution," Peace Now states that Israel authorized the building of over 1,800 new Jewish homes in the West Bank.

The report also says that construction continued on another 3, 500 housing units in the area, with the highest number of construction starting in the ultra-Orthodox cities of Modi'in Illit (146) and Beitar Illit (106), both in the West Bank.

Only the year of 2002 could compare to last year in terms of settlement construction, when 2,653 new homes were approved, Peace Now said.

"The Netanyahu government is promoting several plans precisely in disputed areas which could prevent the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel," the report read.

Peace Now believed the rise in settlement construction during 2011 was a consequence of construction freeze imposed by Israel to boost negotiations with Palestinians in 2010.

After the negotiations failed in October 2010, Israel lifted the moratorium, which prompted the increase.

"At this rate the two-state solution will be in jeopardy. What was once considered an illegal outpost yesterday has become a legal settlement under the Netanyahu government. For every (Jewish) home that was evacuated, dozens of other outpost structures were legalized," Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer said Tuesday.

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