Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry released, on Monday, tenders for the construction of 228 houses for settlers in the West Bank.
The tenders include constructing 150 units in Beitar Elite settlement, and 78 units in Givat Ha’Zait, in Efrat settlement Bloc.
Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and one of the biggest supporters of settlement construction and expansion, said that the bureaucratic process for building these homes began five years ago.
Gissin added that the settlement houses will be constructed within the boundaries of existing settlement blocs that Israel will never evacuate under any peace deal.
“This plan was approved a long time ago, “Gissin stated, “The constructions are intended to strengthen large settlement blocs in the West Bank”.
Israeli Peace Now Movement slammed the plan and described it as an act of “political opportunism” carried by Sharon on the eve of elections.
“Whenever the media is focusing on politics, they start putting lots of tenders”, Dror Etkes of Peace Now stated, “A few years ago, Sharon said don’t talk – build, and this is what he is doing”.
The Yesha Council of settlements called on Sharon to step up of settlement construction and expansion.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, condemned the Israeli decision, and called on the U.S. to pressure Israel to halt its settlement activities.
“First they [Israel] suspended the peace process, then they suspended the contact with us”, Erekat stated, “Now, they are continuing with their settlement activities”.
The Israeli Housing Ministry published since the beginning of 2005 tender for the construction of 1131 houses in West Bank settlements; 803 tenders were released after Israeli decided to hold early elections.