Israel’s civil administration has approved 296 new housing units in the Beit El settlement near Ramallah, Israeli media reported Wednesday.
The civil administration’s approval is the last stage before construction begins in the central West Bank settlement, Walla! news site reported.
Four 10-storey apartment blocks and eight 8-storey buildings will be constructed in the settlement, according to the report.
On Tuesday, Israel’s army radio reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered a freeze on tenders for new West Bank settler homes to avoid hampering US efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians.
Unnamed Israeli officials quoted by Haaretz newspaper said Netanyahu had promised Kerry he would “rein in” construction of settlements until mid-June.
Palestinian top negotiator Saeb Erakat said the PLO had not been made aware of any changes in Israel’s settlement activity.
“We have not been notified of any changes to Israel’s colonial plans, including ongoing construction in dozens of Israeli settlements in the occupied state of Palestine,” he said in a statement.
Direct peace talks broke off in late September 2010 after Israel refused to renew a freeze on settlement construction.
Since then, the PLO has said it will not return to negotiations while Israel continues to build on occupied Palestinian land.
Israel has said it is ready for an immediate resumption of talks, but insists it will only talk if there are no such pre-conditions.
(Ma’an – maannews.net)