Israel’s Housing and Construction Minister Natan Sharansky confirmed Tuesday that his office had given the green light to two settlement building tenders prepared by the previous government of former prime minister, Ehud Barak, which effectively amount to the construction of some 700 housing units in the West Bank, reported Haaretz newspaper.
Talking to Israel Radio, Sharansky said that 496 housing units were planned for the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim near Jerusalem and another 217 at Alfei Menashe, close to the 1967 Green Line Border near Kfar Sava.
Sharansky added that “there is no reason to get into a discussion about settlements when it was still unclear whether Israel has a partner on the Palestinian side.”
“It was clear to everyone, including President George W. Bush that the issue of settlements was not the reason for the continuing violence,” he told the radio.
"It's clear that this is not what influences Arafat when he decides on acts of terror," Sharansky said.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who has been working on a settlement formula that will be acceptable to both Prime Minster Ariel Sharon and Arafat, said Tuesday that Israel would not build new settlements and would not expropriate land in the territories for settlement construction, but that the daily needs of the settlers would be met.
"We will not use the definition of 'day-to-day' needs to expand the settlements," he said.
Under the definition of "natural growth" construction, the settlements were expanded considerably under former prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
According to the recommendations of the Mitchell inquiry into Israeli-Palestinian violence, the two sides first have to agree to a ceasefire, while a settlement freeze is part of a later stage of confidence-building measures that the two sides have to undertake – Albawaba.com
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