Ninety new housing units were approved for Beit El, a major West Bank settlement, on Monday.
The final approval for the new units was given by the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration, and tenders for construction bids have already been issued, meaning that construction permits could be granted within a few weeks.
Some of the new apartments are slated for the evacuated residents of Givat Ulpana, the Beit El neighborhood that was partially evacuated last year after a court ruling determined that 10 of its buildings had been constructed on private Palestinian land. The evacuated residents, 33 families in all, are currently housed in trailers located on military land inside the settlement.
The initiative, which Peace Now Monday called a “mistaken, badly timed decision,” comes on the heels of the announcement that US President Barack Obama intends to visit Israel shorty, in an effort to jump start the peace process among other goals.
US state Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the decision “unhelpful.”
Construction by Israel beyond the Green Line is seen by the international community as an obstacle to a potential peace deal with the Palestinians, and has been a cause of international pressure on Israel. In March 2010, development plans for Ramat Shlomo, an East Jerusalem neighborhood, were announced during a visit by American Vice President Joe Biden. The timing created a diplomatic tiff between the allies and Netanyahu froze the project as a means of calming tensions.
More recently in December, approval was given for thousands of housing units in east Jerusalem, earning Israel the condemnation of the international community.
Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.