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Report: Netanyahu orders freeze on settlement construction tenders

May 7, 2013 at 6:42 AM   |   Comments

JERUSALEM, May 7 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered tenders for West Bank settlement construction frozen, Army Radio reported Tuesday.

Amid U.S. efforts to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Netanyahu announced his decision at a recent meeting with Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, Army Radio said.

Netanyahu's request came despite guarantees he made to Ariel prior to the elections that Israel would construct hundreds of new housing units in the West Bank in response to the United Nations upgrading the Palestinians' status, the radio report said.

Ariel said to Army Radio that he told Netanyahu his party (Bayit Hayehudi -- the Jewish Home) would weigh whether to support the national budget for 2013 if funds aren't allocated for construction in the West Bank.

"In talks with the prime minister we decided that if no provisions are made in the budget for building in Judea and Samaria, we will consider whether to support the national budget or not," Ariel said.

In a move to push the peace process forward after U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel in March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Netanyahu to "restrain" construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, but didn't ask for a settlement construction freeze, Haaretz said.

An unnamed senior U.S. official told the newspaper "the fact is that since the Obama visit there are no new announcements and everything is quiet on the ground when it comes to settlement construction."

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