West Bank Settlement Lays Groundwork for New Neighborhood

Despite talk over settlements freeze, Betar Ilit constructing housing units outside built-up area of the town.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to meet U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday in New York, workers in the West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit will continue what they've been doing for the last few weeks: laying the groundwork for new homes.

Despite talk over a construction freeze in West Bank settlement in ultra-Orthodox Betar Ilit, south of Jerusalem, in recent weeks infrastructure work began in advance of what appears to be the creation of a new neighborhood. While the construction site falls within the municipal boundaries of the settlement, it is on a hill outside the current built-up area of the town.

It appears that at least several dozen housing units are to be built on the site.

The site does not appear on the list of 455 housing units that Defense Minister Ehud Barak reported giving approval for two weeks ago, as a last step before the implementation of new understandings on a construction freeze.

The fact that the hill is outside the perimeter of existing buildings runs contrary to the Israeli contention that construction is being performed within the existing built-up areas.

More than 35,000 residents currently live in Betar Ilit, making it one of the largest settlements, along with Modi'in Ilit - also an Ultra-orthodox settlement just over the Green Line. Betar Ilit also has the highest growth rate of any settlement.