The defence minister Ehud Barak has authorised a West Bank settlement to build 112 new apartments despite Israel's settlement slowdown, his ministry confirmed today. Mr Barak says the new construction in the Beitar Illit settlement is necessary because of safety issues. The 10-month settlement slowdown declared in late November was to have restricted building in the West Bank to 3,000 apartments whose construction was already underway.
The government said at the time that exceptions could be allowed, but critics faulted the current decision. Anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said the government is demonstrating "that it has no genuine intention to advance the peace process". Word of the new construction emerges a day after the Palestinians reluctantly agreed to resume talks with Israel after a 14-month breakdown. *AP