Israel to expand construction in West Bank settlements

Saleh Naami in Gaza, Wednesday 12 Jan 2011

Further settlement construction is expected to continue in the West Bank within the coming weeks, says Israel's deputy prime minister

West Bank settlements
In this 27 Sept. 2010 file photo Israeli earth-moving equipment works in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Netafim, near the West Bank village of Salfit. (AP)

In the coming weeks, the Israeli government is expected to approve further settlement construction in the West Bank, said Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshee Yaalon, speaking to the Israeli media.

“The Israeli government will discuss granting more licenses for construction in existing West Bank settlements. We expect to see many new buildings soon”, Yaalon said to Walla, an Israeli news website published in Hebrew.

He added that Israeli government policy remained committed not to build new settlements but instead expand existing settlements in order to allow settlers to improve their way of life, in accordance with an Israeli-US understanding drawn up during president George W Bush's administration.

"The decision has been waiting for the prime minister's approval and I expect he will do that in the coming ministerial meeting", he added.

“I do not think Israel would one day withdraw from any settlement; Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state before any negotiations."

More than 190,000 Israeli settlers and 250,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem – the proposed capital of the future Palestinian state.

Rigorous US diplomatic efforts to revive direct peace talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed last year after Israel refused to extend a 10-month partial settlement freeze.

Palestinian negotiators have refused to return to the bargaining table until Israel first agrees to halt settlement construction.

Short link: