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Israel Defies Obama's Settlement Demand, Authorizes Construction Of 300 New Homes In West Bank

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In defiance of President Obama's call for a halt to all settlement growth, Israel has authorized the construction of 300 new homes in the West Bank, Haaretz reports.

According to Army Radio said 60 of the 300 homes slated for the Talmon settlement in the West Bank have already been built and that [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak had approved plans to construct another 240 units there.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pressed Israel to halt settlement activity as part of a bid to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Haaretz reports that half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and outposts on land Israel captured in 1967.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called debate over the settlements a waste of time, according to a separate report from Haaretz.

He also said that Israel has been forthcoming with its intentions to halt construction while still allowing for natural growth in existing communities, which he called "an equitable position which reflexes our willingness to enter immediately in peace negotiations and get on with peace."

"I think that the more we spend time arguing about this, the more we waste time instead of moving towards peace," he said.

The AP reports that the plans were approved by Barak and filed with authorities in April.

The outpost, known as Water Reservoir Hill, is just several hundred meters (yards) from an established Israeli settlement, Talmon, not far from Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government.

It is one of more than 100 wildcat settlements that have been erected without official government approval but typically with the cooperation of government agencies.

"This is important because it shows that Israel is not only not evacuating outposts, but is turning them into what it considers legal settlements and expanding areas of control in ways that harm Palestinians," said Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, an architect at Bimkom.

Bimkom has filed an objection with planning authorities, along with residents of the nearby Palestinian village of al-Jania.


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