The Israeli government approved the construction of 50 new West Bank homes today, seemingly defying President Obama’s call for a freeze on new settlements. But Defense Minister Ehud Barak plans to offer a temporarily halt on some construction, officials tell the New York Times, if Palestinians agree to negotiate an end to the conflict and other Arab nations take some confidence-building steps.
News of the new settlements comes a few hours before Barak leaves for the US to discuss the issue with George Mitchell. The Israeli officials say he’ll offer to stop new construction for three to six months, but if no progress is made in talks, it will resume. The 50 new homes are part of a plan for a 1,450-home settlement north of Jerusalem.