Report: Netanyahu promised Kerry to put ‘hold’ on settlement construction

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli 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.

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Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel was told to delay the publication of new government tenders for the construction of 3,000 apartments in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, Army Radio reported Tuesday.

Ariel, of the Jewish Home party, did not comment on the report during an interview Tuesday morning with Army Radio.

The daily Haaretz also reported Tuesday that Netanyahu agreed to “rein in” settlement construction.

Ariel said last week that his party would not vote for the 2013 budget, a move that could bring down the government, unless settlement construction projects were funded. He said not funding the projects was a violation of the coalition agreement.

Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month freeze on construction in the settlements in November 2009. The Palestinians returned to peace negotiations one month before the end of the freeze, then refused to continue negotiating when Netanyahu would not extend the freeze.

News of what is being called a “restraint” policy on settlement construction comes after an announcement by the Arab League, following a meeting with Kerry, that it would agree to a peace agreement along the 1967 borders with agreed-upon land swaps.

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