Israel has given final approval for the building of 90 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, a government official said today.
The new homes are part of an arrangement made earlier this year in which several dozen families living in an unauthorized outpost adjacent to Beit El agreed to evacuate peacefully in return for new homes within the settlement, according to Major Guy Enbar, spokesman for Government Activities in Judea and Samaria. There is no date set for construction of the units to begin, Enbar said in a phone interview.
The U.S., European Union and United Nations say Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal and have criticized plans for additional building as detrimental to the peace process. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says direct talks with Israel cannot resume until it halts such construction.
The decision comes after the White House announced last week that President Barack Obama will make his first visit in office to Israel this spring.
“The advancement of this program could overshadow Obama’s visit,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, a spokesman for Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes settlement construction. “This is a misguided and ill-timed decision,” he said in an interview on Army Radio.