Olmert OKs expansion of West Bank settlement
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved new construction in a West Bank settlement outside Jerusalem, a Construction Ministry official said Sunday. According to the AP, Construction Ministry spokesman Eran Sidis said a project for 546 apartments in the "Givat Zeev" settlement has proceeded in fits and starts since 1999. With Olmert's approval, those apartments will be completed and the ministry will soon market more than 200 more, bringing the project to some 800 units in all, Sidis said.
The project was approved by previous governments, and Olmert approved its resumption, government spokesman Mark Regev said. It "is consistent with our long-standing position that building within the large settlement blocs, which will stay a part of Israel in any final status agreement, will continue," Regev said. Construction outside the settlement blocs has been frozen, he added.
On his part, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the decision to build new housing in Givat Zeev raised doubts about Israel's commitment to peace talks.
"It seems to me the Israelis are determined to put a stick in the wheel of negotiations," he said. "It will undermine the U.S. effort to revive the negotiations.