In a move to placate the Obama Administration, three top leaders in Israel's government have reportedly decided to stop new building projects in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and East Jerusalem until early in 2010.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Housing Minister Ariel Atias agreed to the freeze. Atias called it a "waiting policy," a signal to U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, who will meet with Netanyahu in London next week, that Israel is committed to restarting peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Atias told Israel Radio that no new housing tenders have been issued since the Netanyahu government was formed five months ago.
Jewish community leaders in Judea and Samaria were outraged by the decision. Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman cautioned that if Netanyahu implements the plan, "this government's days are numbered."
Netanyahu has repeatedly and publicly resisted demands by members of the Obama Administration that Israel stop all building in the areas the Palestinians claim as part of a future state.
The Yesha Council of Jewish communities in the West Bank called the apparent turnabout "a dangerous move…in complete disregard of the Israeli voter's decision and the prime minister's explicit commitments before the elections. This is a capitulation to everything the American administration has been dictating."
The leftist activist group Peace now, which monitors construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem, confirmed that the government has not issued any new tenders for construction, but that building continues for 1,000 housing units on a project already in progress.
Sources: YnetNews, Ha'aretz