For the first time since the end of the moratorium on new settlement building last September, the Ministry of Housing and Construction on Monday published tenders for 336 settlement units on Monday.

The move comes as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke out on the housing crisis on Monday, calling for the opposition to cooperate and vote for measures that will alleviate current problems.

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According to the ministry 294 new homes will be built in the Beitar Illit settlement just outside of Jerusalem and 42 in the Karnei Shomron settlement outside of Kfar Sava.

News of the possible authorization of the homes was first released in May and has been reported on several times since then. The Beitar Illit homes were actually approved by the Defense Ministry in April.

Both West Bank Jewish communities are located within the settlement blocs. Israel believes that both settlements will be included in Israel permanent borders once an final status agreement is reached with the Palestinians.

New construction in both communities has effectively been frozen, since both settlements had began work on all of their authorized housing.

No new houses were begun in Beitar Illit in the first quarter of 2011

Beitar Illit, which is the second largest settlement city with a population of over 35,000 in 2009 according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, was not able to start work on new homes in the first quarter of 2011, because it lacked new permits.

Karnei Shomron, which in 2009 had a population of 6,200 according to the CBS, has not had new building permits for the last nine years. 

Its Regional Council head, Herzl Ben-Ari told The Jerusalem Post, that he saw the ministry's decision to authorize new tenders as a sign that it believed his settlement would in fact remain part of Israel.

"It is a very significant move," he said. Still, he noted that his settlements needs anywhere between 420 to 1,500 new homes, as a such 42 new houses, "are just a drop in the bucket."

Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that the tenders, "were a very small step" that were "long overdue."

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