TEL AVIV — The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it plans next week to authorize construction of hundreds of new homes in the West Bank, a move that drew immediate rebukes from Palestinian officials and Washington.
The decision comes as the U.S. and Israel appeared to be moving closer to a deal over some sort of settlement halt, which would allow for a resumption of Israel and Palestinian peace talks. Both the U.S. and Palestinians have demanded a total freeze of construction.
The new building approval would be in addition to the 2,500 housing units already in various phases of construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to a senior official in the prime minister’s office. This official said the approval would precede Israeli consideration of a settlement freeze for “a few months.”
Palestinian officials have said that unless there’s a total freeze, they aren’t interested in restarting talks. Palestinian officials weren’t immediately available for comment Friday.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Reuters Friday that peace talks, suspended since December, couldn’t resume without an Israeli pledge of a total freeze of settlement building.
In a statement, the White House said it regretted the Israeli decision. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion, and we urge that it stop,” the statement said. “We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate.”
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