Israeli Prime Minister Rejects New Settlement Plans

Plans to construct thousands of new homes in disputed territories are shelved after Netanyahu says the move would create 'unnecessary confrontation'

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Abir Sultan / Reuters

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered his housing minister to halt a contentious settlement plan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the country’s housing minister to reconsider plans to build thousands of new homes on the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. The request was outlined in a statement issued by Netanyahu’s office late on Tuesday, just hours after Palestine threatened to walk out of peace talks over the proposal.

The statement called the construction of new homes “an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran.”

Construction and housing minister Uri Ariel announced the scheme on Tuesday, drawing strong criticism from the U.S. and Palestinians. Ariel has agreed to shelve the project, the statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

According to a Washington-based activist group, Ariel issued tenders for more than 23,000 units to construction companies two weeks ago. The project included plans to build in areas east of the barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank.

More than half a million Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas which the Palestinians claim as part of an independent state.