Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday bowed to US-led international pressure and ordered a full freeze on the construction of Jewish housing in Judea, Samaria and the eastern half of Jerusalem, according to Israel's Army Radio.
Central to the decision was the international uproar created by Israel's issuing of a tender for the relatively routine building of 300 new apartments in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, already home to thousands of Israeli Jews.
Upon learning of the building project, the Palestinians loudly voiced their opposition, reminding international peace brokers that they would not accept a final status peace agreement that does not award them sovereignty over the eastern half of the Israeli capital.
Army Radio reported that Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni tried to convince the Bush Administration at last month's summit in Annapolis, Maryland that Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem are not disputed settlements, but to no avail.
Olmert's office later released a statement that no decision had yet been made to freeze construction in Har Homa and several large Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. However, Ha'aretz reported that Olmert did insist that all future building tenders for Jewish housing receive his personal approval before going public so as to avoid further international condemnation.