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6 New West Bank Settlements Announced

The government announced today the sites of six new settlements on the West Bank to be built next fall. All had been agreed to in principle by the Labor-Likud unity coalition and incorporated in its guidelines when the new government was set up last year.

The announcement drew immediate sharp and widely differing reactions. The Council of Jewish Settlements expressed satisfaction but insisted that six was not enough. A spokesman for the militants warned that if more settlements are not approved by the government the settlers themselves would build them, authorized or not.

Labor MK Haim Ramon expressed the view of those who believe the settlement drive must be halted or severely limited if there are ever to be negotiations with Jordan.

He said he was disappointed with the government’s announcement, especially at a time when the development towns in Israel are urgently in need of assistance and attempts are being made to bring Jordan into the negotiating process.

The announcement was made after considerable delay and argument between the Labor and Likud components of the unity government over where the new settlements are to be located. Five of the sites are within the so-called national consensus. The sixth is in the Samaria highlands, the main area of dispute between the coalition partners.

Labor policy has been to erect new settlements for security reasons around the periphery of the West Bank and avoid heavily Arab-populated areas, such as the Samaria highlands. The previous Likud government deliberately planted settlements close to Arab population centers.

The six new settlements announced today will be Neot Kedumim, east of Jerusalem; Avnei Hefetz in western Samaria; Peles in the Jordan Valley; Assael in the Hebron mountains; Migdalim in the controversial Samaria mountains; and Beitar, alternatively called Tzoref, in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem.

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