Israel expects to freeze settlement building


Israel will likely freeze settlement construction in advance of the Annapolis peace summit.

Israeli officials were in Washington Wednesday to iron out the details of the freeze with members of the Bush administration, as well as to brief U.S. officials on Israeli security matters as they relate to negotiations with the Palestinians.

The United States has been pressing Israel for several weeks to make a dramatic announcement on settlements in the West Bank and evacuating outposts before the peace parley as a gesture of good will to the Palestinians.

A settlement freeze also could bring other Arab countries on board for the U.S.-sponsored peace talks, scheduled for the end of this month.

According to the “road map” for peace signed in 2003, Israel is required to freeze building in the settlements, including for natural growth, and to dismantle all outposts erected before March 2001.

Settler leaders who met Tuesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were informed of the possible freeze. Permits granted for the construction of 48 homes in the West Bank city of Ariel were revoked earlier in the week, according to the Jerusalem Post.


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