By Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times
Israel says that it will partially halt new settlement building in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday his cabinet’s decision of a “policy of restraint” during a press conference in Jerusalem.
New residential construction permits and new residential construction in the West Bank for Israelis will be suspended for 10 months.
One goal of the decision was described by Netanyahu’s administration as a way to push peace talks with the Palestinian Authority forward.
“We hope that this decision will help launch meaningful peace negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that will finally end the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel,” said Mr. Netanyahu in a speech that was published on the Israel minister of foreign affairs Web site.
Recent census data put the population of Israelis living in the region at over 300,000. Settlements are groupings of Israelis in the West Bank that range from medium-sized, well-established cities to small illegal outposts of several families. Jurisdictional control in the West Bank is mixed between full Palestinian control, full Israeli control, and mixed control. The average West Bank resident lives amidst a mixture of Arab villages and Israeli settlements.
The U.S. Department of State emphasized the move’s pivotal role in the peace process in a statement on their Web site from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines,” said Ms. Clinton.