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Israel approves new settlement units

Feb. 11, 2013 at 5:55 AM

JERUSALEM, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Israel has given final approval to the construction of 90 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, Army Radio reported.

The controversial decision came weeks before a visit to the region by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria removed final obstacles to granting the approval and within a number of weeks building tenders for the 90 units will be issued, the radio report said Monday.

The settlers Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza welcomed the decision but it was denounced by Peace Now, a non-governmental organization that monitors settlement activities.

"The advance of such plans will likely cast a shadow on Obama's visit," Yariv Oppenheimer, director-general of the organization, told Army Radio.

The decision was a mistake and the timing "unfortunate," Oppenheimer said.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to refrain from provocative actions before Obama's visit but said Israel has the right to build. "They are not new settlements. The meeting between President Obama and Netanyahu will provide an opportunity to discuss how such steps will not be considered an obstacle to peace," Army Radio quoted him as saying.

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