Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Israel 'to halt settlement growth'

Israel's prime minister is expected to announce a 10-month halt to the construction of new settlement houses in the occupied West Bank.

Binyamin Netanyahu was due to hold a news conference on Wednesday evening, after Israeli officials said that the proposal had been approved by the security cabinet.

However, the proposal excludes areas of the West Bank that Israel has annexed to its Jerusalem municipality since occupying the territory in the 1967 Middle East war and building projects already under way.

Netanyahu reportedly told the cabinet: "It's not a simple step, not easy. But it has far more advantages than disadvantages.

"It allows us to present before the world a simple truth: The Israeli government wants to enter negotiations with the Palestinians, is taking practical steps to enter negotiations and is very serious about its intentions to promote peace."

Limited freeze

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jersualem, said that the freeze would only apply to "new residential permits and new residential starts".

"We are only talking about housing here. This freeze applies to public buildings such as schools or police stations or whatever, and it also means any existing building permits that have been granted they will go ahead," she said.

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