Israel unfreezes plans for another 1,800 settler homes
JERUSALEM - The Israeli government on Thursday ordered officials to move forward with plans for another 1,800 settler homes, just hours after issuing tenders for 1,500 housing units, an official said.
"The political echelon has ordered the Civil Administration to advance 1,800 new (housing) units," the Israeli official said on condition of anonymity, referring to a defence ministry unit responsible for all West Bank planning issues.
The order relates to construction in 10 separate settlements across the West Bank, all of which are at different stages of the planning process.
Israeli media reports said the plans had been frozen by the government some three months ago.
The announcement came just hours after Israel's housing ministry published tenders for the construction of nearly 1,500 new homes, 400 of them in annexed east Jerusalem and the rest in the West Bank.
Israel said the move was in direct response to the establishment of a new Palestinian unity government, backed by the Islamist Hamas movement which calls for the destruction of Israel.
Walla news website said the order to unfreeze the plans was given by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today ordered that the construction of 1,800 additional housing units beyond the Green Line be advanced on order to continue the work of the Civil Administrations higher planning committee," it said.
"Netanyahu ordered to advance plans that he had ordered frozen some three months ago."
Netanyahu's office refused to comment on the report, but a government official defended the earlier publication of the tenders, saying all construction would take place in areas Israel wants to keep in any peace agreement.
"This construction is in areas that will remain part of Israel in any peace agreement, meaning Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and large settlement blocs," he said.