NetanyahuIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stopped progress on plans to build in the E1 area of Maaleh Adumim, the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Aharonot reports.

Netanyahu faced international criticism after the government approved new construction in the area. However, the government stuck to its plans, inviting tenders for new homes.

The project won approval from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but Netanyahu is reportedly delaying sending it onward to a planning committee.

The move proves he was never serious about the plan, MK Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi – Tekuma) accused. “Stopping the publication of the building plans for E-1 proves that his talk about settlement is an illusion,” he charged.

“The day after the elections, we will again discover the real Netanyahu, the one who freezes building and gives in to pressure,” he added.

In an editorial Wednesday, the Washington Post noted that Netanyahu’s declaration of new construction is “a familiar tactic.” Netanyahu has announced new building in the face of competition from Israel’s “far right,” the paper suggested.

The editorial suggested that international condemnation has been “counterproductive,” as it wrongly perpetuates the mistaken notion that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace. The new construction is in communities that were ceded by the Palestinian Authority in previous negotiations, it noted.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office denied that the delay indicates a change of heart on Netanyahu’s part. “There is no change in the decision to move forward with the E1 plan,” they said.