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"We are being sent abroad, quite simply, to lie," a senior Israeli diplomat serving in a foreign country said Wednesday morning, in response to a news report by Army Radio on continued building in West Bank settlements.
The station said Wednesday morning that 100 new housing units were being built in the West Bank by the Amana settlement movement, and that most of the units had already been sold. According to the report, Amana was also negotiating the sale of more potential units, which would be built in the future.
"We meet foreign ministers around the world, tell them that building in the settlements has stopped, and it seems we are just lying to them," the diplomat said.
Sources in Jerusalem said that the construction of homes in the West Bank would be stopped in accordance with promises made to the US and to Jordan, but that the units in question had been approved several years ago, before the commitment to the US and Jordan was made.
The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Yesha) said that the demand for new apartments was very high. Thirty housing units were in the pipeline for Alon, a settlement near Jerusalem. New neighborhoods were also planned in Yakir, Revava and Karnei Shomron, Yesha said.
Yesha Chairman Benzi Lieberman defended the project in an interview with Army Radio: "Once a contractor has ownership of the land and approval to build, he doesn't need to ask when to start. If he likes, he can hold on to the lot for 30 years before beginning to build on it."
Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin said the building project was illegal. "This building, these settlements, are the worst thing in the eyes of the pragmatic factors in the Palestinian camp."
"So, they're not building a new village but adding a new neighborhood to an existing village - we know the settlers' games over the past 40 years."
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said the government under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had built more settlements than any previous government.
"The Olmert government lied to the public, and instead of leaving the territories like it promised maintained the building momentum. Effectively, this is one of the most right-wing governments to hold power in recent years," Oppenheimer said.