Israelis defiant on settlements

ISRAEL yesterday gave the go-ahead to build hundreds of new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank, defying warnings that the move jeopardises any resumption of Middle East peace talks.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak authorised the construction of 455 units, most of them in the large settlement blocs that Israel has said it wants to keep in the event of a final peace agreement.

The move – coming just days ahead of a planned visit to the region by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell – has sparked criticism that it will undermine US-led efforts to restart the stalled peace process.

“Israel’s decision... nullifies any effect that a settlement freeze, when and if announced, will have,” top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a statement.


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