Hundreds of homes approved for Beit El settlement

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Civil Administration, which administers the West Bank, approved the construction of nearly 300 new houses in the Beit El settlement.

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The preliminary approval given on Wednesday means the public has 60 days to register complaints before a final approval is granted. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also has to sign off on the plan.

Beit El is located north of Jerusalem and is part of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council.

The 296 homes were promised in June 2012 as part of a deal with 33 families who agreed to evacuate the Ulpana outpost near the settlement without resistance. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in September 2011 that the outpost should be razed, siding with a lawsuit filed by Palestinians who said they owned the land.

In February, Israel’s Defense Ministry approved the construction of 90 housing units in Beit El as part of the same agreement.

Wednesday’s approval came just days after Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel told Israeli media that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that he would put a hold on construction in West Bank settlements until mid-June.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the decision “destroys the peace process” and destroys U.S. “efforts to revive it.”

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