(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it never approved plans to build thousands of new houses in Jewish settlements in a particularly controversial part of the West Bank.
In a statement Tuesday, “officials” in the Prime Minister’s Office said the plans, announced Monday by the anti-settlement group Peace Now, had been pushed through by former Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party, the Times of Israel and Agence France Press reported.
The statement said Ariel issued the plan to build in E1, an area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim that under most proposed peace plans would be part of a Palestinian state, “without the required authorization” and it has “no validity.” Ariel, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim, is currently Israel’s agriculture minister.
“The Ministry of Housing has no authority either to plan or to build beyond” Israel’s 1967 borders, said the statement. “These plans therefore have no standing and are not binding on anyone.”
On Monday, Peace Now issued a report saying the Ministry of Housing is working on plans for more than 55,500 new units in West Bank settlements, including more than 8,000 units in E1.
The report also noted that half of the 55,000 units will be located east of the security barrier and that the plan calls for creating two new settlements and legalizing at least six outposts.
Tuesday’s statement from Netanyahu’s office did not address the plans for units outside E1.