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Israel lifts restrictions on Jewish settlement

August 2, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EDT

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new hard-line government cleared the way Friday for expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, effectively reversing building restrictions imposed in the area four years ago.

"The previous government placed chains and bonds upon the natural development of settlements," Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh quoted the prime minister as saying. "It was clear this situation was unacceptable to us."

Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel explains the decision
(128K AIFF or WAV sound)

The government said the decision won't automatically signal a massive influx of settlers, and that any plans to build new settlements would have to win special government approval.

But it clearly means settler communities will no longer feel constrained about permitting new settlers to move into neighborhoods or seeking permission for big new housing complexes in their towns and villages.

About 145,000 settlers live in the West Bank and Gaza, amid 2 million Palestinians who hope to establish an independent state there. The Palestinians view the settlements as an obstacle to peace.


Friday's Cabinet decision was vague in many respects and appeared aimed at satisfying the settlers while not infuriating Arabs ahead of Netanyahu's planned meeting on Monday with Jordan's King Hussein, Israel's partner to a 1994 peace treaty.

Palestinians and Israeli peace activists denounced the Cabinet decision, saying it violated the peace agreement.

Under a 1993 interim peace accord with Arafat's PLO, Israel agreed to negotiate the future of the settlements in "final-status" talks that began in May before the elections but have yet to resume under Netanyahu.

Likud leader Netanyahu dislodged Labor party prime minister Shimon Peres in May's general election, promising to lift both the freeze on new settlements and limits on existing ones imposed by the Labor-led government in 1992.

CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.


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