Israel says settlements not included in new housing subsidies

Israeli officials say they have changed recent incentives for housing to exclude settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to The Associated Press.

The AP had reported earlier this week that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will stand for reelection in November, was expanding subsidies for Israelis settling in the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice in 2004 found to be illegal.

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According to an announcement cited by the AP, Netanyahu’s Cabinet had earlier this week identified 70 West Bank settlements where the subsidies were applicable and said the subsides were intended “to encourage positive migration to these communities.” Many Israelis complain of the high cost of living in the country’s urban centers.

The Israeli government appeared to have quickly stepped back from the policy, which on its face would appear to flout the wishes of Israel’s allies in the now moribund peace process. (The US had demanded an explanation and Palestinian authorities had denounced the measure, according to the AP.)

The decision had come down the week that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Middle East and called on Israeli authorities to halt the construction of settlements.

Hours after Sunday’s vote, the Israeli Cabinet held another by telephone to exclude the settlements, at least for now, according to the AP, which noted that the government said granting the incentives to settlers would be “contingent on a decision by political leaders.”

More from GlobalPost: End the settlements, Ban Ki-moon tells Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu

At a news conference with Ban, according to the AP, Netanyahu said he had not caved to international pressure and claimed the initial decision was a mistake: "we corrected it immediately,” he said.

According to Ynetnews, Ban told the Herzliya Conference on security that Jewish settlements in the West Bank were illegal and a "provocation."

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