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Israel to Build 50 New Homes at W.Bank Settlement - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Defense Ministry said on Monday it had approved construction of 50 new homes at a West Bank settlement as part of a plan for 1,450 housing units, an expansion that defies a U.S. call for a settlement freeze.

News of the planned building work emerged hours before Defense Minister Ehud Barak was due to travel to the United States for talks aimed at narrowing a rift with Washington over the settlement issue.

He will meet President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell.

An affidavit submitted by the Defense Ministry to the Supreme Court outlined plans to relocate settlers from Migron, an outpost built in the West Bank without Israeli government permission, to the settlement of Adam, north of Jerusalem.

According to the document, a response to a court case brought by the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now, a master plan for Adam calls for the construction of 1,450 housing units there.

But the ministry said it had given the go-ahead for the construction of only 50 of the homes and any additional units would require its separate approval.

Yariv Oppenheimer, a Peace Now spokesman, said moving settlers from the small, hilltop Migron outpost to expansive tracts in Adam sent the wrong message.

“(Settlers) who set up illegal outposts and threatened to use violence if evicted have benefited because the outcome will be that their original settlement will have grown 30-fold,” Oppenheimer said.

U.S. PRESSURE

Obama has pressed Israel to halt settlement activity as part of a bid to revive peace talks under which the Palestinians would gain statehood.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war. Palestinians say settlements, deemed illegal by the World Court, could deny them a viable and contiguous state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to declare a settlement freeze, saying that some construction should continue to match population growth within the enclaves.

Barak left open the possibility of a limited, temporary halt to construction in settlements, in remarks on Sunday in response to an Israeli newspaper report that he would propose a three-month moratorium.

Israeli officials argue that the previous U.S. administration tacitly agreed to some continued growth in the settlements, the largest clusters of which Israel plans to keep under any future peace accord with the Palestinians.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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