The Likud Central Committee voted on Thursday to resume settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank after the current freeze on settlement construction expires in September.
Last November, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the chairman of the Likud Party, announced a 10-month freeze on settlement construction.
Netanyahu did not participate in the Likud Central Committee meeting, where right-leaning sections of the party called for a vote on a proposal to bolster settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu's critics say that his behavior is strange, since he agreed to the final draft of the proposal initiated by MK Danny Danon, one of the Likud leaders who opposed the settlement freeze.
"It is not respectable for the chairman of the party not to show up to a central committee meeting," senior Likud officials said Wednesday, when the prime minister voiced doubts that he would be attending the meeting. "It doesn't look good. He announces that he won't renew the [settlement] freeze and supports bolstering the settlements, but then, in a strange move, avoids the meeting."
Netanyahu succeeded in delaying the vote for months, fearing pressure from the U.S. The American administration has demanded that Israel stop building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as part of efforts to relaunch peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu announced prior to the meeting that he would not oppose Danon's proposal, which is meant to support the settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as the 10-month freeze comes to an end on September 26.
Netanyahu's associates rebuffed the criticism against him, saying that there was no real need for the prime minister's presence at the meeting as he has already declared that he would resume the settlement construction once the freeze expired.
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