Under direct Israeli Prime Minister Ariel SharonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s instructions, the Housing Ministry has temporarily halted and reexamining tenders for the construction of over 1,000 housing units in the Palestinian territories.
It is believed that SharonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s move after Sharon heard serious U.S. administrations criticisms over IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s violations to obligations made by the Prime Minister directly to President George Bush.
An Israeli government source said Sunday that the housing ministry will reexamine the plans based on the Israeli-American understanding under which settlement construction will be limited to currently built-up areas.
Yet, Israel and the United States have not finalized marking lines beyond which construction in settlements is banned. The American Ambassador to Israel Dan Kirtzer and an Israeli national security team are said to be discussing the issue.
According to the Yesha Council of settlements, the tenders are for units in Betar Ilit, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Geva Binyamin, Ma’aleh Adumim and Karnei Shomron settlements.
The council accused Sharon of leaning to American pressure and attempting to impose a freeze on all settlement construction.
A government source denied the council accusations, confirming that the tenders would be published in the next few days, once reexamination is finished.
A source in the Israeli PM office said Sunday that Sharon ordered the freeze after discovering that the housing ministry’s director-general was moving forward with the tenders despite his order for a reexamination.
Palestinian official source called Sunday the government of Israel to Ã¢â‚¬Å“set an end to such cunning internal bargainingÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“immediately freeze construction in settlements in compliance with the road map termsÃ¢â‚¬Â.