JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s defense minister has approved the construction of about 455 new housing units in the West Bank.
Ehud Barak signed the approvals Sunday night and Monday morning, according to reports.
The housing will be built in settlements located in blocs that Israel plans to keep under a peace agreement with the Palestinians, including Har Gilo, Modi’in Ilit, Givat Ze’ev, Alon Shvut, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel. Barak also approved the construction of a sports park in Ariel.
A moratorium on new construction in settlements reportedly will be finalized during a planned visit to Israel this week by U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell. The moratorium will not include the new approvals or approximately 2,500 other apartments being built in West Bank settlements, Ha’aretz reported.
The approvals are the first new West Bank construction approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government since taking office nearly six months ago, and the first in the settlements since last November, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing sources in the Prime Minister’s Office.