Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to build 3,500 new settler homes in a super-sensitive area of the occupied West Bank, just a week before a tight general election.
"I gave immediate instructions for a permit to deposit (plans) for the construction of 3,500 units in E1," Netanyahu said.
The international community has warned repeatedly that Jewish settlement construction in the E1 corridor would cut the West Bank in two and compromise the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
"We are building Jerusalem and Jerusalem's outskirts," Netanyahu said at a conference in remarks relayed by a spokesman.
In 2013, Netanyahu had vetoed construction in the E1 corridor in the face of UN, EU and US pressure.
The move to advance new homes, which would constitute a new neighbourhood of Maale Adumim, a nearby settlement town, were praised by the Yesha Council, a settler lobby group, which noted that plans for homes there have existed since 2004.
"Advancing the issue will enable broad and strategic construction between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem," Yesha Council head David Elhayani said in a statement.
On Thursday, Netanyahu announced plans for thousands of new homes for Israelis in annexed east Jerusalem, with critics calling the move a last-minute gift to nationalist supporters ahead of a March 2 general election.