(MENAFN - Arab News) The Israeli government has allocated one billion shekel ( 250 million) for West Bank Jewish settlements over the next two years, Israeli Army Radio reported yesterday.
The report said that the 2009-2010 budget, which passed its first reading in the Knesset last week, calls for 125 million for various security expenses and most of the remainder for housing construction.
The 159 billion budget must pass two more readings in the Knesset.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Al-Malki said Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank are the main obstacle to peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. "Everyone knows that settlement activities are the basic obstacle and the Israelis are trying to change the facts on the ground," Al-Malki said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads an expanded coalition of extremist parties, has rejected US demands to freeze settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, including so-called "natural growth". More than 280,000 Jewish occupiers live in the occupied territories.
Peace talks have been stalled since Israel launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip in January.
The installation of Netanyahu's government early in April contributed to the freezing of the peace process.
By Mohammed Mar'i