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January 1, 2014 11:16 am

Netanyahu Postpones Declaration of New Construction in Judea and Samaria Until After Kerry’s Visit to Israel

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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The Ma'ale Adumim municipality. Photo: Avishai Teicher.

Even though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intention to approve the construction of 1,400 housing units in Judea and Samaria this week, the announcement will now be pushed back to next week – at the end of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Israel, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Wednesday.

Last week, senior government officials in Jerusalem announced on television Netanyahu’s plan to issue a statement authorizing the building of new homes in Judea and Samaria.

According to Ma’ariv, the Netanyahu administration planned the move as a reaction to both the recent wave of terrorism in Judea and Samaria as well as pressure from right-wing government ministers who were protesting the release of 26 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Last week’s announcement came as such a surprise that Israel’s Housing and Construction Ministry had not even prepared the required tenders necessary for any new construction. Upon receiving a directive from the Prime Minister’s Office, the tenders were prepared and it was announced by the Housing and Construction Ministry that 1400 housing units were to be put on the market. 600 of the units were to be built in Ramat Shlomo, located in eastern Jerusalem, with the rest of the homes to be constructed in several heavily populated settlement blocs.

However, with the Housing and Construction Ministry having effectively issued the tenders, a call suddenly came in from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ma’ariv said.

Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblitt asked Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel to hold off on making an announcement about new construction.

According to government officials, Netanyahu changed his mind because he does not want to anger Kerry – who opposes Israeli settlement construction – during the current delicate phase in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Ma’ariv reports.

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