Tel-Aviv has approved the construction of more than 13,000 new settler units in the occupied West Bank to proceed as soon as a partial moratorium expires on September 26.
Ground has been broken for 2,066 units and an additional 11,000 units have received final government approval, the anti-settlement ‘Peace Now’ movement said on Monday, AFP reported.
"This means that if the government decides on a de facto ‘tacit freeze’ and commits to not approve any new construction but without renewing the freeze order, the settlers can still build 13,000 housing units," the Israeli watchdog said.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the moratorium.
"It makes sense to extend that moratorium as long as the talks are moving in a constructive way," Obama said at a White House news conference in which he spoke of "enormous hurdles" facing the negotiations.
However, Israeli officials say they will avoid making any formal announcement when the partial freeze on construction expires.
“Israel will not build all the tens of thousands of housing units awaiting approval; but on the other hand, we won’t freeze the lives of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) residents by freezing construction,” Netanyahu said late Sunday.
Palestinians view Israel’s insistence of the continuation of settlement projects as a major obstacle to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has threatened to walk out of the current talks if settlement construction resumes. Meanwhile, Obama has asked Abbas to show more flexibility.