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Israel Moves on 450 New West Bank Homes Amid U.S. Strains

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In this Jan. 21, 2013 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, is surrounded by bodyguards as he arrives with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, second right, and Likud party member Moshe Kahlon, left, to brief the media in Jerusalem. Even before Israel's hastily called election campaign kicks into high gear, a former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shaping up to be this round's wildcard and potential kingmaker. Kahlon was the most popular Likud minister in Netanyahu's previous government, drawing wide appeal for both his working-class character and for pushing daring reforms. But prior to the 2013 election he abruptly quit politics over differences with Netanyahu. Now he's back with a new centrist party that focuses on Israel's economic woes and could tip the scales in favor of those seeking to topple the longtime Israeli leader. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

In this Jan. 21, 2013 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, is surrounded by bodyguards as he arrives with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, second right, and Likud party member Moshe Kahlon, left, to brief the media in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

 

(Bloomberg) — Israel pressed ahead with plans to build 450 homes in West Bank settlements weeks before its parliamentary election, in a move likely to further strain already frayed relations with the U.S.

The Israel Land Authority published tenders on its website on Thursday soliciting developers to build the homes, a process that could take years. Spokesmen for the Israeli government and U.S. consulate didn’t have immediate comments. The Palestine Liberation Organization labeled the construction plans a “war crime,” an allegation that has added resonance now that the Palestinians have moved to join the International Criminal Court, a war crimes tribunal.

Palestinians claim the West Bank for part of a hoped-for state that would include east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and oppose any settlement building. The U.S. considers the construction an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, whose latest round, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, broke down in April. Israel and the Palestinians blame each other for the impasse, with the Palestinians frequently criticizing continued Israeli building in the West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a general denunciation of settlement-building, told the African Union heads of state summit in Addis Ababa today that the Israeli government “is always bluffing” by painting itself as desirous of peace while it builds in settlements. His comments were reported by the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

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