Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a freeze on publishing tenders for new West Bank settler homes to avoid hampering US efforts to renew peace talks, army radio reported yesterday.
Israel's Peace Now settlement watchdog also said there had not been any tenders for new West Bank construction published since the start of the year.
Neither Netanyahu's office, nor the housing ministry would comment on the army radio report, which said the premier had gone back on a pre-election pledge to push ahead with thousands of new settler homes if reelected.
The decision to build the homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem was taken as a punitive measure late last year after the Palestinians won upgraded UN status, despite strong opposition from Israel and Washington.
News of the tender freeze was communicated by Netanyahu to Housing Minister Uri Ariel several days ago, the radio said.
Netanyahu's decision to freeze the tenders was linked to efforts led by US Secretary of State John Kerry to relaunch peace talks with the Palestinians, according to the radio.
Just weeks-old direct peace talks broke off late September 2010, after Israel refused to renew a freeze on settlement construction.
Since then, the Palestinians have said they will not return to negotiations while Israel continues to build on land they want for a future state.