Israel has advanced construction plans for over 2,000 new housing units in six Judea and Samaria communities, a defense official said on Thursday.
The official, Guy Inbar, is a spokesman for the Civil Administration, the IDF unit tasked with approving construction in the region.
Inbar told AFP that a Defense Ministry committee on February 19 pushed forward plans on 2,269 housing units that had already been submitted.
The committee approved 1,015 units in the communities of Leshem, Beit El, and Almog, meaning the construction is only waiting now for Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's final approval. An additional 1,254 units in Ariel, Shvut Rachel and Shavei Shomron were published in the media for public comment before further discussion in the committee.
The 839 Ariel units have been "snarled in bureaucracy for the past decade," according to Haaretz, while the 290 units in Beit El were promised by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 18 months ago after he evacuated a neighborhood in the community.
Nevertheless, Lior Amihai of the far-left group Peace Now was quick to criticize the prospect of new Jewish homes, saying the plans "distance us from the two-state solution."
The announcement comes after Jerusalem councilman Yosef Pepe Alalu of the far-left Meretz party reported Wednesday that plans to build 186 new housing units in eastern Jerusalem had been "finalized." The units are planned for the neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze'ev and Har Homa.
Israel is in great need of new housing units, given the ongoing housing crisis. In February, the Bank of Israel revealed that housing prices rose a whopping 8% in 2013.
Construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria has met condemnation from the US, which has advanced a framework peace agreement creating an Arab state in the region with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas threatened two weeks ago that unless a building freeze was imposed on Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the peace talks would come to an end. Such a freeze was not stipulated as a pre-condition to resumed talks.
Last Sunday, Netanyahu voiced his rejection of a building freeze, noting "we imposed one in the past and it brought no results."