Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized construction of 366 new apartments, the Defense Ministry announced. An additional 84 new apartments will be approved in the near future, bringing the total number to 450, the ministry said.
The order includes permission to proceed with construction of a new settler enclave in the Jordan Valley, an area that is considered vital to a future Palestinian state because of its rich farmlands and location deep inside the West Bank.
While it could take months or years for construction to begin on most of the homes approved on Monday, infrastructure work was already in progress for 20 houses in the Jordan Valley enclave of Maskiot.
Later Monday, settlers, Cabinet ministers and lawmakers planned to hold a mock cornerstone-laying ceremony for what they hope will be a new neighborhood of 3,000 apartments in an especially contentious area outside Jerusalem.
Palestinians say Israeli development would cut off east Jerusalem from the West Bank and kill their dreams to set up a capital there. The construction plans were frozen years ago under pressure from Washington.
The land where the neighborhood lies is in a wedge between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, Israel’s second-largest settlement.