Israel's PM decided on Tuesday not to invite tenders for West Bank settlement building in the coming months following US demands for a complete settlement freeze. According to AFP, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Housing Minister Ariel Atiyas agreed no new tenders for settlement construction in the West Bank should be invited until early next year.
"We believe there is no reason to strain relations with the United States and, as a gesture, we decided to temporarily suspend the issuing of new tenders for construction in the West Bank," an Israeli official was quoted as saying by AFP. According to him, this move demonstrated "Israel's willingness to move forward with the peace process." A government official stressed that "not a single tender has been issued" since the Netanyahu government took office on March 31.
Palestinians however dismissed the move as "insignificant." Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat insisted Israel "is playing with words in speaking of a freeze in housing construction tenders while continuing construction of 2,500 new houses in the settlements". "Israel must stop all settlement activity without any conditions," he stressed.