Netanyahu Backs Down From Plans to Build 24,000 New Settler Homes

Annouces Reversal in Face of U.S. Opposition

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By Reuters

Published November 12, 2013.
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E-1 PROJECT

In its report on the Housing Ministry plans, Peace Now said they envisaged 19,786 additional settler homes in the West Bank and 4,000 in East Jerusalem.

One of the tenders, the group said, included plans for 1,200 more housing units in the highly sensitive E-1 area, sandwiched between Jerusalem and Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of government.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at her daily briefing the United States was both caught unawares and displeased by the building plans.

“We are deeply concerned by these latest reports that over 20,000 additional units are in the early planning stages,” she said. “We were surprised by these announcements and are … seeking further explanation from the government of Israel.”

Under U.S. pressure, Israel had suspended previous projects to build more than 3,000 settler homes in E-1. Hours before ordering the overall tender review, Netanyahu swiftly froze the new E-1 initiative, political sources said.

Palestinians fear Israel’s settlements in areas it captured in the 1967 Middle East war will deny them a viable state. Most countries consider the enclaves illegal under international law. The United States describes the settlements as illegitimate.

Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than 500,000 Israelis now live alongside 2.5 million Palestinians.

A Housing Ministry spokesman, in comments to Reuters before Netanyahu’s announcement, said only a small fraction of the blueprints it commissions annually lead to construction.

“The tenders are a basis for building plans and they all still have to go through lengthy legal procedures before building starts,” said the spokesman, Ariel Rosenberg.

Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of creating “artificial crises” over the settlement issue and has said that most of Israel’s building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in areas it intends to keep in any future peace deal.


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