Israel's new housing minister said on Sunday that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu's incoming cabinet would keep expanding Jewish settlements to the same
extent as his previous government.
The remarks came two days ahead of a
visit by US President Barack Obama who has urged Israel to halt settlement on
land that Palestinians seek for a state. They suggested that Netanyahu's new
cabinet could prove to be as hawkish as his outgoing coalition.
Minister Uri Ariel, a Jewish settler and member of the pro-settler Bayit Yehudi
party, said in a television interview that "building will
continue in accordance with what the government's policy has been thus far."
Using the biblical names for the territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, Ariel
told Israel's Channel 10 television the government "will build in Judea and
Samaria more or less as it has done previously. I see no reason to change it."
Ariel added that Israel planned the bulk of housing construction for more
sparsely populated areas within its sovereign borders in the Negev desert to the
south and Galilee region in its north.
He said construction in the West
Bank was "not the main story" for his housing plans.