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Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided on Thursday to ease the temporary construction freeze in the West Bank settlements, announced in November by Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayhau, granting local settlement municipalities the authority to hand out building permits to be implemented immediately after the freeze expires.

Netanyahu issued the freeze orders on November 26 in efforts to jumpstart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, who have demanded that Israel cease all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before negotiations could resume.

The order revoked the authority of 24 local municipalities to issue building permits. In light of settler protests and legal hurdles, a revised freeze order was issued.

The revised order dictates that the planning powers be returned to local authorities. The planning committees will be allowed to advance building permit processes, but the final permit will still be frozen. This means that the moment the freeze expires, the paperwork will already be in order so that many projects can be immediately undertaken.

The revised order also permits the expansion of existing structures, such as adding rooms, turning garages and balconies into closed rooms, etc. as long as no separate units are erected.