JERUSALEM -- As U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry is poised to return to the region, Israel is advancing a plan for a large-scale expansion of a West Bank settlement, according to Israeli media reports.
Plans for more than 600 housing units in the settlement of Itamar were recently submitted to authorities, the reports say. If completed, the new construction would significantly expand the settlement, which currently has about 1,200 residents.
A previous government pledged more housing for Itamar after five family members were killed in an attack in their home. Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's previous defense minister, gave initial approval to moving ahead with the project last year.
While settlers welcomed the news, liberal lawmaker Zehava Galon described the move to local media as "giving the U.S. the finger" while the government was engaged in efforts to resume the peace process.