13 Nov 2013

Israel backs down on West Bank housing project

5:11 pm on 13 November 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a halt to controversial plans for the construction of 24,000 new homes on the occupied West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu says the plan has caused unnecessary conflict with the international community at a time when Israel is pressing for a tougher stance on Iran's nuclear programme.

He was referring to recent talks in Geneva on Tehran's controversial programme that ended without a deal, the BBC reports.

A spokesperson for the United States government, Jen Psaki, says the US is deeply concerned about the plan, which prompted a Palestinian threat to walk out of peace talks.

About 500,000 Israelis now live in more than 200 settlements and outposts on land captured by Israel in 1967. These settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Mr Netanyahu on Tuesday ordered his Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, to reconsider the construction project.

The Prime Minister said that it would make no contribution to Jewish settlements and "creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran".