Israel approves hundreds of housing units

Nov. 2, 2011 at 7:20 AM
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JERUSALEM, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and government ministers approved the construction of more than 1,900 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The move is one of a series of steps approved by the government in response to the UNESCO decision Monday to accept the Palestinian Authority as a full member.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman, slammed the decision, saying it would speed up "the destruction of the peace process," Haaretz said.

A statement issued by the Israeli prime minister's office Tuesday said Netanyahu approved the construction of apartments in Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion bloc and Ma'aleh Adumim, areas that will remain part of Israel under any future agreement. The statement said the forum of eight ministers will convene again to discuss future steps in response to the UNESCO decision.

The Jerusalem Post said the units were already in their final planning stages but required final approval. They include 1,650 units in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, 277 in Efrat in Gush Etzion and 50 in Ma'aleh Adumim.

The ministers also decided to postpone the transfer of tax money, which Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, which uses it to pay the salaries of PA workers, Haaretz said. The sum is estimated at NIS300 million ($82.1 million), the newspaper said.

During the discussions, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued over whether to permanently halt the transfer of tax money, the paper said. Barak warned halting payment of the funds could jeopardize the future of security coordination with Palestinians in the West Bank while Steinitz supported the move, the paper said. The forum also decided to bar UNESCO missions from visiting Israel, the paper said.

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