Abbas Spokesman: Barak's West Bank Plans Kills Peace Process

Construction of dozens of new homes in West Bank settlements draws fire both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The announcement that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had authorized the construction of dozens of new homes in the West Bank drew fire both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, after the decision was publicized Monday in Haaretz.

Haaretz revealed that Barak had authorized at least 400 new housing units and lots, including 32 lots and a commercial center in Beitar Illit, 48 housing units and 19 lots in Ariel, and 40 housing units and a commercial center in Efrat.

"Ehud Barak's decision effectively destroys the peace process," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "Barak and his government know very well that the peace process can't proceed as long as our land is being stolen."

Barak also authorized new construction in Ariel, Modi'in Illit, Ma'aleh Adumim, Mevo Horon, Oranit, Beit El, Neve Daniel, Alon Shvut, Kochav Yaakov, Talmon and other settlements.

Writer Amos Oz criticized Labor, Barak's party, at a meeting of the new left-wing bloc initiated by Meretz leader MK Haim Oron.

"The Labor party is saying and doing two different things. On one hand it presents itself as the left-wing, social party, and on the other hand it sits in any coalition that invites it," Oz said.

"At Rabin Square, Barak spoke of walking the path of peace, and of waging a war against violence in the settlements, but I read in the newspapers that he is expanding the settlements and authorizing building in the settlements," he added.

Ronen Moshe, Barak's communication advisor, said the article was "riddled with distorted, tendentious figures that don't meet any journalistic standard. We should all consider why a tendentious and incorrect article was printed, and what lies behind the timing of its release."

The Defense Ministry did not respond to Haaretz before the initial article ran, even though a request had been made two days earlier for details regarding the plan Barak authorized last year.

Haaretz now holds a Defense Ministry document delineating Barak's authorizations since April. The document lists all planned construction and the date of Barak's approval.