Israel gives final approval for 90 new settler homes

JERUSALEM Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:17am EST

An Israeli soldier looks out from a guard post in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

An Israeli soldier looks out from a guard post in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah February 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel gave final approval on Monday for 90 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, driving another wedge into a rift with Washington ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The dwellings will be built in Beit El, a major Jewish settlement north of Jerusalem, and will house educational staff, the Defense Ministry said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged that 300 new homes will eventually be erected in Beit El, where 30 settler families were evicted last June after the Supreme Court ruled they were living illegally on private Palestinian land.

Israel has come under international criticism, including from its main ally, the United States, over its construction policy in the West Bank -- territory it captured in the 1967 war and which the Palestinians want for their future state.

Settlement expansion has been an irritant in a testy relationship between Netanyahu and Obama, who is due to visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan this spring.

Both Israel and the United States have played down speculation that the trip could result in the revival of U.S.-hosted peace talks with the Palestinians that collapsed over the settlement issue in 2010.

"The Palestinian position is clear. There can be no negotiation while settlement continues," Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in response to the new Beit El construction.

Most countries consider Israel's settlements illegal. Israel disputes this, citing historical and Biblical links to the land.

There are now more than 325,000 settlers in the West Bank, with a further 200,000 living in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel after 1967 in a move not recognized internationally. It is claimed by the Palestinians as their capital city.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Crispian Balmer)

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Comments (3)
CMEBARK wrote:
Obama is wasting his time. Israel is hell bent on colonization through lebensraum just as the Nazi were in the 40s. The jews want land not peace.

Feb 11, 2013 8:28am EST  --  Report as abuse
rgbviews wrote:
The longer the Western world allows Israel to flout international law, the greater the future violence in the ME.

Feb 11, 2013 11:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
saavedra wrote:
All Americans should watch the Oscar nominated Israeli documentary ‘The Gatekeepers.’ All six living directors of Shin Bet, (Israel’s CIA, FBI, and Secret Service rolled into one) are interviewed. None of them are under the impression that Israel’s Likud party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu are interested in Peace with the Palestinians. It also illuminates the bristling Ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox segment of Israel society, who danced in the streets when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated. Rabin had the temerity to sign the Oslo Accords, a Peace deal with the Palestinians. His assassination brought the land grabbing Netanyahu and Likud party into party power.

Feb 11, 2013 2:15pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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