Israel's Ministry of Housing published on Monday tenders for 228 new housing units in the West Bank, 150 of which are for the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, outside of Jerusalem, while another 78 are to be built in the Efrat settlement.
The left-leaning Israeli political group, Peace Now, has accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of taking advantage of upcoming Israeli elections, scheduled for this March, to publishing the tenders.
"In the shadow of the elections," a statement from the group said, "Ariel Sharon is undertaking political hijacking and permitting the construction of hundreds of housing units in the (occupied) territories."
"The move is in clear violation of the Road Map (peace plan) and harms the interests of the State of Israel," the statement added.
According to the group, 1,131 housing-unit tenders have been published since the beginning of 2005, 803 of which have been published since the decision of early elections was announced in Israel.
Last week, Peace Now revealed that Israel's Ministry of Housing had published 117 tenders for housing units in the Ariel settlement outside of Jerusalem, and another 20 in the Karnei Shomron settlement.
The group stated that "Sharon was adorning himself with the image of the Road Map, but in essence, he has yet to undertake the most basic of its demands: the cessation of settlement construction."
In March, the group claimed that the Israel Land Administration had announced that it would permit the Ariel settlement housing tenders after seven months in which no new housing tenders in the West Bank had been published.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )