Shrugging off a rebuke from Washington, Benjamin Netanyahu is standing firm. He is set to announce the building of hundreds of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, defying international criticism.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s plan is apparently to authorise a burst of settlement activity before considering a freeze on such construction. His ministers are divided on the issue, some opposing any halt. National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, using Israel’s terms for the West Bank, told reporters: “I don’t see any reason to stop construction…in Judea and Samaria.” The Palestinians are demanding a total freeze on settlement construction on land they want as part of a future state. President Obama has been pressuring Netanyahu’s right-leaning government to halt settlement building, a major obstacle in stalled peace talks. But hundreds of extra housing units are now set to see the light of day – a prospect that has prompted Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to quell any speculation that he will meet his Israeli counterpart in New York this month.