Israel suspends settlement building permits

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suspended all permits for building projects in Israeli settlements, but also approved plans for the construction of 28 public buildings.

The action Nov. 26 came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month settlement building freeze.

The 28 building permits Barak approved mostly were schools, according to media reports. Netanyahu said in his announcement that public buildings, along with Jerusalem, would not be part of the settlement freeze.

The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip held an emergency meeting to organize a campaign against the decision, the Jerusalem Post reported.

"We see the Cabinet resolution as illegitimate, discriminatory and anti-Zionist," said council chair Dani Dayan.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry worked to increase international support for the decision, with Director-General Yossi Gal saying Nov. 26 that the Jewish state expected the international community to "support this far-reaching step."

The United States called the freeze a "positive development," but some other countries have not been as supportive. Russia, for instance, said that Israel should have halted all settlement construction, including in eastern Jerusalem.

The Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram reported that Netanyahu called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to brief him on the settlement decision. The newspaper reported that Mubarak told the Israeli leader that Jerusalem should have been included in the freeze.

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