Building freeze, or not

Israeli officials have agreed to freeze construction in the West Bank until the beginning of 2010, several news outlets reported this week. An unofficial freeze was first reported early last month.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there is no official freeze, and although it is not the complete settlement freeze the Obama administration has been demanding, Housing Minister Ariel Atias told Israel Radio on Aug. 18 that Israel has been in “a holding pattern” since November on issuing new construction permits.

But Dror Etkes, who tracks settlements for the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, said there was no sign of a slowdown in the actual construction. — jta, ap &