JERUSALEM (JTA) – Members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet expressed support for the Israeli prime minister’s plan to approve housing construction in the West Bank ahead of a planned slowdown.
Netanyahu told Likud ministers prior to the regular Sunday Cabinet meeting that an agreement with the United States over construction in the settlements would be completed this week, according to reports.
He told the ministers that he would not freeze construction completely.
"The postponement in construction is a strategic delay," said Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Eli Yishai at the start of the Cabinet meeting. "We won’t give up on building in Jerusalem and will still build hundreds of construction units."
Several Israeli media outlets and international news services, quoting anonymous senior Israeli officials, reported Friday that Israel plans to approve hundreds of new homes prior to an anticipated three- to six-month freeze on settlement building to start in October.
U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is expected to visit Israel later in the week.
Meanwhile, work on 20 housing units began Sunday in the newly established northern Jordan Valley settlement of Maskiot. The homes are intended for Gush Katif evacuee families from the community of Shirat Hayam.
Also Sunday, officials of the Jerusalem municipality of Ma’aleh Adumim asked Israel’s Supreme Court to order the police department to explain why it is refusing to allow the community to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a new neighborhood in the E1 sector, claimed by the Palestinians, which would link the settlement with Jerusalem. . The plan for the area was approved in 1999.