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Israel selling vacant homes in 30 West Bank settlements BR>

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JERUSALEM, Feb. 4 (JTA) — In a move likely to spark Palestinian protest, Israel’s Housing Ministry has published newspaper advertisements to sell 120 apartments in 30 West Bank settlements. The action came in the wake of a government decision last year to expand existing Jewish settlements and allow the sale of 3,000 empty apartments in the West Bank. The move came days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat were slated to hold a summit aimed in part at airing complaints each side has against the other. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the planned apartment sales “worrisome and dangerous.” The Palestinians have opposed the Netanyahu government’s settlement policy, saying that it is changing facts on the ground before final-status talks. But Housing Ministry officials defended the decision, adding that the timing was purely a logistical matter. “Everyone knows that for the past five years, some 3,000 apartments have been standing empty,” Elisha Peleg, a senior adviser in the Housing Ministry, told Israel Television. “Now is a good time to let people move in.” Jewish settler leaders have been pressing the government to implement the decisions it made on settlement activities.

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