Barak to approve settlements’ development plans


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will approve development plans for four West Bank settlements.

The Defense Ministry confirmed to the Israeli media on Monday that Barak will approve the plans for Rotem, Hemdat, Eshkolot and Nofim, and already has approved plans for two other settlements, Kiryat Netafim and Halamish.

The ministry said they are legal settlements built on state land and authorized by the government.

Barak is under pressure to similarly approve a plan for the West Bank settlement of Itamar, where five members of the Fogel family were murdered in their sleep last month, as well as a handful of other settlements.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee approved the construction of 942 housing units in Gilo, a residential district in mostly Arab eastern Jerusalem. Other committees already had approved the plan. The units would be built on privately owned land as well as land owned by the Jewish National Fund, Haaretz reported.

The planning and building committee’s backing came the day before Israeli President Shimon Peres was scheduled to meet with President Obama in Washington. The Obama adminstration has objected to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

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