Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has approved the construction of 1,000 more homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, officials said Tuesday, violating a U.S.-backed peace plan that calls for a building freeze.
Sharon's aides said they had Washington's tacit approval for the construction, because the houses would be built inside existing settlements that are among the enclaves Israel insists on keeping under any peace settlement with the Palestinians.
But the U.S. Embassy criticized the construction plan, and Palestinians denounced it. Israel's moderate opposition Labor Party, mentioned as a possible partner in Sharon's governing coalition, demanded that the project be canceled, informs Guardian.
The ministry's spokesman Kobi Bleich said the bids are for units in four West Bank settlements -Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, Beitar Illit, and Karnei Shomron. Bleich said all the settlements were within "the Israeli consensus." All the relevant authorizations have been received," he said. "There should be no problems with them."
The announcement runs contrary to Israeli-US understandings on the road map peace plan, which calls for a halt to settlement construction and expansion. A US team to monitor the status of the outposts and settlement construction is to arrive in September, Defense Ministry officials said Monday, writes Jerusalem Post.
According to BBC News, the roadmap peace plan obliges Israel to stop settlement growth, while the Palestinian Authority must act to curb militant attacks on Israel. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the construction of the new homes would bury the roadmap.
The United States is displaying increasing impatience with Israel's slow pace in removing the outposts, which Washington and the Palestinians criticize as seeds of future settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians, reports ABC News.
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