Jerusalem: Israel would be allowed to finish
hundreds of apartments already under construction in West Bank
settlements even if it agrees to a US-drafted deal to renew a
freeze on new construction, a diplomat familiar with the
details said on Monday.
The US is pressing Israel to renew a settlement slowdown
that expired in September in order to get stalled
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks moving again. In exchange, it
is offering Israel military hardware and veto protection
against UN resolutions critical of its policies.
According to the emerging deal, construction would have
to halt for 90 days on hundreds of additional homes begun
after the first slowdown expired on Sept 26. But that freeze
would not apply to apartments already under construction that
were exempted in the first slowdown, the diplomat said.
Officials had earlier given conflicting accounts
regarding the fate of those homes.
"From our understanding, what was allowed under the
previous freeze can continue. What was not allowed under the
previous freeze cannot continue," the diplomat said. He spoke
on condition of anonymity because the details of the deal have
not been finalised.
According to Israel`s Central Bureau of Statistics, 2,140
apartments were under construction in the West Bank at the end
of June, the last period for which there are official figures.
It is not clear how many of those homes have been
completed since. But to give a rough idea of the pace of
construction, nearly 800 apartments were completed in the
first six months of the year.