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Israel's Olmert Puts West Bank Withdrawal Plan on Hold


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he has put on hold a plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank, a plan which helped him win office this year.

Mr. Olmert, who met Monday with parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said the issue of realignment is not as high a priority as it was two months ago.

He also said he wanted to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying there is no problem more urgent than that of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Israel is seeking bids for the construction of nearly 700 housing units in two West Bank settlements, Maaleh Adumim and Beitar Illit.

The Jewish settlement construction project is the largest proposed by Mr. Olmert's government since it took office in May. Palestinian officials quickly condemned the plan, calling it a violation of the U.S.-backed road map peace plan, which calls on Israel to freeze construction of settlements in the West Bank.

Israel's housing ministry published advertisements in local newspapers inviting bids for Maaleh Adumim and Beitar Illit, settlements near Jerusalem with a combined population of more than 60,000.

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