The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has unofficially ordered restraint on settlement building in the West Bank. The pressure group Peace Now believes that Netanyahu is responding to US pressure and this decision could be a sign of efforts to restart peace talks.
The peace talks were stalled in 2010 during a disagreement over settlement construction. Though the building of the settlements is illegal under international law, Israel disputes this, insisting on building them.
There were plans of building more settlements, decided after Palestine was granted the status of “non-member observer state” in the United Nations. This decision of the UN was strongly opposed by Israel.
The decision of the freeze in building settlements was not confirmed or denied by the government, but the Yesha Council has also stated that it has heard such news from the Prime Minister. However the council disagrees with him strongly on this count. It is said that Netanyahu made this decision with pro-settlement Housing Minister Uri Ariel, but he did not confirm this either.
Palestinian representatives said that this would indeed be a step further toward serious peace negotiations, but they also say that they need for this to be confirmed officially. However as the settlements violate the 1967 borders, they find it hard to negotiate over ever-shrinking territory.
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