NEW YORK – Despite screaming headlines that the Israeli government's approval of hundreds of new Jewish homes in the strategic West Bank is defying U.S. and Palestinian demands, Arab countries and even the Palestinian Authority quietly recognize that there have been far fewer settlements built since Prime Minister Benjamin Netantanyahu came to office.
"These new homes are just meat to be thrown to Netanyahu's right wing base," said a Jordanian government official, speaking to WND from the Middle East.
"Even the Palestinian Authority knows that since Netanyahu came to power, there have been less settlements constructed than during any other recent time period," the Jordanian official said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday signed permits needed to construct 455 new houses in West Bank Jewish communities. The new housing was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The construction will take place in the settlement blocs that Israel wants to keep under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
President Obama has demanded a total halt to Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem. Clearly the approval of any construction in those areas defied Obama's demand for a total settlement freeze.
White House officials the past few days have labeled Jewish housing in the West Bank and Jerusalem as impediments to peace, while not calling for reciprocal demands from the PA, which last month held a major conference at which it refused to recognize Israel's existence.
Netanyahu told ministers of his Likud party yesterday an agreement with the Obama administration on a partial settlement freeze likely will be finalized later this week.
Contrary to public claims by the Palestinian Authority that Israel's reported approval of some 455 new Jewish homes in the West Bank is a major escalation, there has actually been a decrease in Jewish construction in those areas under Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government allowed thousands of homes per year to be built in the West Bank. Even Barak, whose tenure was marked by extreme concessions to the Palestinians, oversaw large expansion of Jewish communities in the West Bank.
Meanwhile Saeb Erekat, a chief Palestinian negotiator, told WND Israel's latest approval of Jewish construction was an "escalation that undermines efforts to reach a peaceful settlement."