06/07/2012, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Israel orders the construction of hundreds of new houses in the West Bank

PM Netanyahu announces the expansion of Beit El with the construction of 300 new homes. Construction minister announces 551 new flats in other West Bank settlements. Previously, Knesset rejected the legalisation of outposts on private Palestinian land, which triggers anger among settlers who vow to resist.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the construction of hundreds of new homes at the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. More will follow in other settlements.

The Israeli government also plans to legalise 13 of 18 illegal outposts. A petition has been presented before the High Court of Justice against them. Israeli settlers are angry however that five outposts have been ordered dismantled because they were built on private Palestinian land, first among them Ulpana, which should be evacuated in early July, followed by Migron in August.

Netanyahu gave the green light to the expansion of Beit El, which should receive 300 new families.

Construction Minister Ariel Attias announced that later an additional 551 flats would be built elsewhere in the West Bank. "Thirty apartments will be evacuated, but 850 will be built instead," Attias said in a statement. "Under the circumstances, this is a worthy solution."

Previously, the Knesset, Israel's parliament, had rejected a motion to legalise outposts on Palestinian territory.

The prime minister had also opposed it, stating that he would respect the Supreme Court's ruling, ordering the demolition of the houses built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Ulpana is part of the Beit El settlement, which was built on land Israel seized in the 1967 war. Palestinians claim the land for their future state.

Under international law, all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal. The Israeli government rejects the argument, claiming instead that some of the areas are Jewish by history and tradition.

Land is the main obstacle in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For Palestinians, Israel's land grab is undermining any hope they might have for a state of their own.

Netanyahu's announcement of new settlements has angered Palestinians, human rights activists and pacifists, as well as the US government, which is opposed to the decision.

For US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, "continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts."

Peace talks have been frozen for the past three years and will continue to be so since the Palestinian side said it would not resume negotiations until Israel freezes its settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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