Netanyahu to Approve West Bank Construction

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will approve plans for hundreds of new housing units in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in addition to some 2,500 units already under construction.

According to Israeli media sources, the move comes ahead of a possible temporary construction freeze should conditions with the Arab world warrant such a move.

Netanyahu has said that normal life in the settlements would not be put on hold while Israel and the Palestinian Authority are working through a process that could take years.

The additional construction applies only to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as Israeli sovereignty over its capital and construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods are not up for discussion, the prime minister has said.

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat responded angrily to the report.

"I think the only thing that will be suspended by this announcement is the peace process," the senior PA negotiator said.

Aside from any new construction, PA officials would like to see building halted on the 2,500 housing units already underway.

But an Israeli official said construction to accommodate natural growth was resolved in meetings earlier this week between Netanyahu envoys Yitzhak Molcho and Mike Herzog with U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell in Washington.

Mitchell is expected to return to the region next week.

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