Israel approves West Bank construction


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Ministry of Defense authorized the construction of new apartments in a West Bank settlement despite a construction freeze.

The authorization of 112 new apartments in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, announced Monday, came a day after the Palestinian Liberation Organization agreed to enter into U.S.-brokered indirect peace negotiations with Israel. The Palestinians had insisted they would not re-enter peace negotiations without a cessation of building in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

The exception to the 10-month freeze, which began in November, was made for "safety" reasons, the Ministry of Defense said, according to Haaretz. A Defense Ministry statement said the building would close a dangerous 40-yard gap between two existing buildings, according to the BBC.

The permits had been issued under the previous government of Ehud Olmert, before the settlement freeze was announced.

The announcement of the housing construction came hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to land in Israel in part to advance the peace process.

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