JERUSALEM (JTA) — Building began in West Bank communities just hours after the expiration of a 10-month settlement construction freeze.
Work on 50 apartments for people removed five years ago from Gush Katif began Monday morning in Ariel. Construction also continued Monday in Revava, Yakir and Kochav Hashachar, Haaretz reported, on homes for which permits had been issued before the freeze began.
Construction is expected to begin Tuesday in several other West Bank communities including Shavei Shomron, Adam, Oranit, Sha’arei Tikva, Kedumim and Karmei Tzur.
In all, there are plans for the immediate construction of about 2,000 housing units throughout the West Bank, including 600 with current permits.
Shortly after the freeze automatically expired at midnight on Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: "I call on [Palestinian Authority] President Abbas to continue the good and sincere talks that we have just started, in order to reach an historic peace agreement between our two peoples."
The statement continued: "I hope that President Abbas will stay in the talks and, with me, continue on the road towards peace, which we started only three weeks ago after many in the world realized that my intentions to achieve peace are serious and genuine, and that I honor my commitments. … I say to President Abbas: For the future of both our peoples, let us focus on what is really important. Let us proceed in accelerated, sincere and continuous talks in order to bring about an historic peace framework agreement within one year."
In the hours before the expiration of the freeze, Netanyahu spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other senior US administration officials, as well as with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian king Abdullah, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not immediately renounce his participation in the recently revived direct peace talks with Israel, as he has threatened, instead requesting a meeting of the Arab League to receive its decision on whether or not to continue talks. In late July the Arab League voted to allow the Palestinians to enter into peace negotiations.
Arab officials and Abbas have claimed in recent weeks that the Palestinians will not remain in the peace talks if construction resumes in the West Bank.
Construction is expected to take place slowly this week due to the Sukkot holiday.