23 June 2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank, defying U.S. calls for a halt to settlement growth.
According to Army Radio said 60 of the 300 homes slated for the Talmon settlement in the West Bank have already been built and that Barak had approved plans to construct another 240 units there.
U.S. President Barack Obama has pressed Israel to halt settlement activity as part of a bid to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
The World Court has ruled all settlements illegal under international law. The United States and European Union regard them as obstacles to peace.
Palestinians, who want their own state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, see the settlements as a land grab meant to deny them a viable state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far refused to declare a settlement freeze, which could spark a backlash within his right-leaning coalition government.
Israel says the Palestinian Authority has not done enough to stop militant violence.