The Israel Lands Authority published a tender for 708 residential units in Gilo on Tuesday, just hours after reports that a deal with the U.S. on a settlement freeze for spy Jonathan Pollard's release was close to being sealed.
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An Israeli official said the U.S. is working to secure the Palestinians' approval for the deal, which would include, among other things, the U.S. release of Pollard, Israel's release of additional Palestinian prisoners and a freeze on most of the construction in the settlements, with the exception of East Jerusalem, and would halt government tenders, marketing of lands and planning.
The units in Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood located beyond the Green Line, were already issued for a tender last November and January, but closed without any offers. Contractors complained the minimum prices were too high.
Last week, the ILA decided to repeal the minimum price, making the tender much more appealing, and on Monday, it publicized its first tender for 708 units in Gilo.
Last August, Israel's Interior Ministry approved 890 new apartments in Gilo, on the eve of the first Palestinian prisoner release, and just weeks after U.S. Secretary of State renewed the Israeli-Palestinian talks, whose nine-month deadline expires April 29.
Just last month, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee approved building permits for 184 housing units beyond the Green Line in Har Homa, Pisgat Ze'ev and Ramot.
The number of housing starts in the West Bank settlements more than doubled in 2013, according to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics.