(JTA) — The Israel Land Authority published a tender for constructing 283 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Elkana.
The announcement Thursday, advancing an expansion the Israeli government first approved in 2012, comes after international criticism, including from the United States, over Israel’s recent appropriation of approximately 1,000 acres in the West Bank.
The publication of tenders, in which contractors are invited to bid on the project, constitutes the final bureaucratic stage of the process for construction. Construction is not expected to begin before December.
The United States and European Union consider Israeli construction in the West Bank an impediment to reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. On Thursday, Haaretz quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that the United States was examining “additional ways to respond to the appropriation” of West Bank land.
The mayor of Elkana, which is located in a settlement bloc Israelis believe will remain under Israeli control in any long-term agreement with the Palestinian Authority, said in February that the publication of the tenders was imminent, and that it is part of a plan to double Elkana’s population of 3,900 residents by 2019.
“We have waited for this tender during four years of fighting to end the freeze on construction,” Elkana Mayor Asaf Mintzer wrote in a description of a Feb. 3 meeting with Israel Land Authority officials about a neighborhood planned in the north of the settlement.