Israel rejects plans to build hundreds of West Bank housing units

The US, UK and EU have condemned plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build hundreds of housing units in the West Bank, calling them “deplorable.”

Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel had begun planning for around 900 new settlement homes in the southern part of the West Bank evoked a chorus of criticism. The US spokesman, Robert Palladino, said in a statement that the move “threatens peace,” and the UK foreign office said it “strenuously opposes” the new plans, calling them “wrong and damaging.”

“We condemn the Israeli decision to re-start planning for new settlements and we reiterate our long-standing call for all Israeli settlements to be removed from the West Bank,” the European Union said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The decision to pursue plans for the new housing is a reversal of past commitments by Netanyahu to restrict settlement construction. It came just weeks after world powers including the US and the European Union reached a landmark nuclear deal with Iran, a move that they argued significantly curbed Tehran’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu told AFP that he was putting the new housing construction on hold in light of recent US-brokered agreements with the Palestinians. “A day earlier, [US President Donald] Trump made a historic decision to stop Iranian aggression in the region by agreeing to the JCPOA agreement with Iran,” Netanyahu said, referring to the nuclear deal.

“I had told the prime minister a few hours ago that the best way to show support to this achievement is not to act against this but rather to build the homes that we want to build,” he said. “But we’re taking it back … this time for a week.”

Netanyahu’s announcement came a day after Palestinian Authority officials said they had reached a preliminary deal with Trump administration officials to seek “credible” steps to rein in Jewish settlement activity on land claimed by the Palestinians.

After a meeting in Washington with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said he had discussed “credible measures” to halt Jewish settlement expansion, including a freeze on new housing projects.

Al-Maliki declined to discuss details of the discussions, but he said they were “positive” and “satisfactory.”

His comments follow a contentious trip to Washington by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who was sharply critical of Trump’s stance toward the Palestinians.

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