JERUSALEM, Israel - When the ban on new housing starts in Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - ended three weeks ago, Israelis resumed construction on 544 new homes, The Associated Press reported on Thursday.
"The actual number is likely higher," AP stated, after reportedly surveying 16 communities where they spoke with construction crews and mayors. They also conducted a telephone survey of more than four dozen communities.
The renewed construction "has jeopardized peace talks re-launched only last month... and could make the daunting task of partitioning the land even more difficult," the article stated, noting that "the current pace is more than four times faster" than in recent years.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to put the recently restarted talks between Israel and the Palestinians in their proper historical context.
At a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin - signatory of the Oslo Accords - Netanyahu quoted from the slain leader's last speech before the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in which he talked of a future Palestinian enterprise vis-à-vis the Jewish state.
Click here to read Netanyahu's full speech.
"We would like this to be an entity, which is less than a state and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority," the prime minister said.
Rabin said Israel's final borders would be beyond the armistice lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War.
"We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines," he said.
Jerusalem would be eternally united under Israeli sovereignty as the capital of the Jewish state, Rabin said, and the government had committed itself "not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of an interim agreement and not to hinder building for natural growth.
Fifteen years later, despite the Israeli government's persistent efforts, neither the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority nor Hamas, the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip, seem willing to work toward any kind of mutually acceptable arrangement.
In view of the more than 300,000 Israelis living in 120 established towns and cities in Israel's biblical heartland, 544 new homes hardly seems disproportionate.