More Homes On The Range

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JERUSALEM: Israel's defense minister has approved the construction of 900 new apartments for Jewish settlers in an exisiting settlement on the West Bank. It would be the first new construction in an occupied territory outside of Jerusalem in at least four years, and represents a manifestation of promises made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his election campaign this spring. TIME's Eric Silver reports from Jerusalem that the new housing is part of a plan drawn up years ago but shelved under the Labor governments of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. The new apartments will be in Kiryat Sefer, a settlement of strictly observant Jews that is essentially a suburb of Jerusalem. Observant Jews traditionally have large families, creating population pressure in existing orthodox communities, so the new apartments should fill quickly. Silver says that other than being on the wrong side of the "Green Line" separating Israel and the West Bank, the settlement is not a particularly provocative one. There is no concentration of Palestinians nearby and the land is already owned by the developers. That squares with the Netanyahyu's goals of fulfilling promises made to orthodox Jews, a crucial core of support, while limiting confrontation with Palestinians, notes Silver. "The government's approach is 'softly, softly,' but they are forging ahead." -->