Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the construction of 37 additional housing units in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, Ynet learned on Wednesday.
During talks in New York with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, US President Barack Obama called for “restraining” settlement activity, as opposed to Washington's previous demand to halt all settlement construction.
Just a few weeks ago Barak approved the construction of 455 housing units in the West Bank, although settler leaders said the housing units' construction had already been approved by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet.
The construction projects were approved despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unofficial policy to refrain from granting fresh building permits in the West Bank.
Karnei Shomron. More building permits. (Photo: Tal Shahar)
Karnei Shomron Local Council head Herzl Ben-Ari told Ynet that Barak's decision was "part of the great rehashing project," adding that construction on the new neighborhood began as early as 1999 and that "all that was needed was to extend its lease."
Ben-Ari said Barak had promised the family of Captain Bnaya Rayan, who was killed in the Second Lebanon War, to build another neighborhood adjacent to the family's home in Karnei Shomron.
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer also criticized Barak's decision, saying the defense minister has become "Yesha's contractor."
According to him, "Building housing units in Karnei Shomron - between Qalqilya and Nablus – is a historic mistake that damages the two-state vision.
"The Israeli government is singlehandedly destroying any chance for a peace agreement and jeopardizing our relations with the US," Oppenheimer said.