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Report: Settlers can build 13,000 houses

  |   Sept. 13, 2010 at 4:10 PM
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JERUSALEM, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Up to 13,000 housing units could be built in West Bank settlements once the 10-month building freeze expires Sept. 26, Peace Now says its investigation reveals.

"At least 2,066 housing units are ready for construction in the settlements as soon as the freeze ends. Those are units in projects in which the ground works have already begun or the construction permit has already been approved," the Israeli non-government organization report said.

The report claimed there "are at least another 11,000 housing units approved for construction, according to valid building plans, and the settlers can build them even without further government approval."

"This means that if the government decides on a de facto 'tacit freeze,' and commits not to approve new construction but without renewing the freeze order -- the settlers can still build 13,000 housing units," the report said.

The organization claimed there "are apparently hundreds more housing units ready for construction as soon as the freeze ends but the ground works have not yet begun and there is not available information about them."

There was no government response to the organization's claims, which for the first time quantify the number of units that could be shovel-ready upon the expiration of the freeze.

At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he believed a compromise could be reached allowing settlement construction to resume at a slower pace once the current freeze expires, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

Netanyahu reportedly told ministers Israel may not extend the freeze once it expires at the end of the month.

"I don't know if there will be a comprehensive freeze … but I also don't know if it is necessary to construct all of the 20,000 housing units waiting to be built. In any case, it doesn't have to be all or nothing," the newspaper quoted Netanyahu saying.

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