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Israeli settlers ready for over 2,000 new homes: report

09-14-2010 08:07 BJT

by Gur Salomon

JERUSALEM, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Construction of more than 2,000 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank is slated to resume after Sept. 30, following the expiration of Israel's 10- month building moratorium, according to a report released by an Israeli watchdog group.

The Israeli left-wing NGO Peace Now charges that 2,066 homes in 42 different settlements are ready for immediate construction while hundreds of additional housing units, whose foundations have not yet been laid, can be started as soon as the construction freeze ends.

The report said another 11,000 housing units have been awarded building permits and that beginning construction does not require further government approval.

West Bank settlers could build no less than 13,000 housing units even if the Israeli government decides to implement a partial freeze and quashes new construction projects, according to the report.

Hagit Ofran, Peace Now's Settlement Watch Project Director, told Xinhua on Monday that the data was based on field surveillance, recent aerial photographs and information gathered from government ministries.

"Our estimate is that construction will immediately resume following the expiration of the moratorium," Ofran, who authored the report, said in a telephone interview.

The group's revelations come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas prepare for the second round of peace negotiations in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday.

Abbas and other Palestinian officials have warned that they will walk out on talks if construction resumes.

Asked about the timing of the publication of the report, Ofran said that "its purpose is to let him (Netanyahu) and the Israeli public know that if the construction moratorium were to continue, then the settlers will circumvent it and derail the peace process. "

The Israeli premier hinted at Sunday's weekly cabinet session that he may be prepared to adopt a compromise on the settlement freeze issue.

"I don't know if there will be a comprehensive freeze," Netanyahu told his ministers, "but I also don't know if it is necessary to construct all of the 20,000 housing units waiting to be built. In any case, it doesn't have to be all or nothing."

Netanyahu's hint at a possible partial continuation of the construction moratorium was met with fierce criticism from settler leaders and hard-line Likud ministers. Some analysts say that there is the possibility that building may not occur in the upcoming weeks or months, despite the government's approval.

Government sources, following Sunday's cabinet meeting, described Netanyahu's remarks on the freeze as "too vague."

"Netanyahu told Likud ministers that 'we should take into account that the end of the moratorium will enable to build more than 19,000 housing units,' " a source close to the Israeli cabinet told Xinhua.

"The international community can cause us great problems since it views a renewal of the construction a test of our seriousness in the negotiations, but seriousness must also be displayed by the Palestinian side, for example, regarding the issue of recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish people. And I don't see (the Palestinians) doing that," Netanyahu said, according to the source.

The Israeli premier had reportedly told Quartet leader Tony Blair that the Palestinian demand of "zero construction in the West Bank after September 26 will not happen."

"We will not be able to freeze the lives of West Bank settlers, but on the other hand, we will not build all tens of thousands of housing units on the drawing board," Netanyahu said.


Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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