Barak: Freezing construction is correct

Defense minister predicts a "year of diplomatic opportunity;" W. Bank council heads boycott meeting.

ehud barak serious 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
ehud barak serious 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
"Freezing [settlement] construction is a correct national priority," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said only a day after he approved the construction of 455 housing units in several West Bank settlement blocs. Speaking at a toast for the Jewish New Year ahead of the holiday of Rosh Hashana, Barak told heads of local councils that "regarding the settlements, we need to act wisely and responsibly, not with harsh words and violence." Regarding the diplomatic process, the defense minister said "we want to reach an agreement with the Palestinians based on the two-state principle, while safeguarding Israel's security interests. We are entering a year of diplomatic opportunities and we mustn't miss them." Some council heads from Judea and Samaria boycotted the toast, held in the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, citing as reason the government's decision to freeze construction in the settlements within six months. On Monday, Barak gave an official seal of approval to the construction of 455 new housing units in West Bank settlement blocs. 149 units were approved in Har Gilo, 84 in Modi'in I'llit, 76 in Pisgat Ze'ev, 25 in Kedar near Ma'aleh Adumim, 89 in Ma'aleh Adumim itself, 20 in Maskiyot and 12 in Alon Shvut. Barak also approved the construction of an extreme sport arena in the city of Ariel.