Israeli Settlements: Reports Claim Israel Has Halted New West Bank Settlements

Reuters is reporting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has quietly halted the construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank. The report quotes Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, which monitors settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying "We see there have been no new construction tenders issued for the West Bank since President Barack Obama visited (in March)."

However, as Peace Now went on to say, calling the lack of new tenders a settlement freeze would be premature and misleading given that "construction on the ground continues at the same pace, and plans continue to be promoted."

Quoting unnamed "senior Israeli officials," the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the lack of new tenders is the result of a promise Netanyahu made to Secretary of State John Kerry to "rein in" settlement construction until mid-June in an effort to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. According to Reuters, Israeli Army Radio has reported that Netanyahu met with Housing Minister Uri Ariel to order a halt to new tenders. But then Reuters goes on to quote Ariel as saying, "I am not commenting," regarding whether or not a halt is in place. A Netanyahu spokesman reportedly also declined to comment.

So its hard to tell exactly what is going on. There are reports, although hard to verify right now, that Netanyahu has denied ordering a halt. Even if there have been no new tenders issued as a result of a promise by Netanyahu, the reality is that existing settlement construction still continues. A halt of a few months on new tenders, if confirmed, would still be nothing more than an empty gesture.