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West Bank civil authority approves construction in settlements

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Civil Administration approved the construction of nearly 900 housing units in West Bank settlements.

Wednesday’s approval by the Civil Administration, the highest civilian authority in the West Bank, comes as the first round of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are set to begin in Israel.

Palestinian Authority leaders have said such announcements are a sign of bad faith.

Despite the approval, construction starts are a long way off, as the approval must also be granted by several other committees, stand up to any legal challenges from both Palestinians and Israeli groups that oppose settlement expansion, and get the signed approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Among the housing plans approved Wednesday are 95 new units in Shiloh; 17 retroactive units in Shilo; 559 and another 255 units retroactively approved in Talmon; 38 retroactive units in Kochav Yaakov, 78 units in Kibbutz Gilgal in the Jordan Valley; 31 units in Almog near the Dead Sea, and 60 units in Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion bloc.

The Civil Administration’s consideration of some of the projects was postponed last month after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

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