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West Bank building apparently on hold

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stopped approving new construction in West Bank settlements, two prominent Israeli activist groups said Tuesday, in what could be an attempt to clear the way for renewed peace talks with the Palestinians.

The antisettlement group Peace Now, which monitors all new Israeli settlement construction, said Netanyahu has not approved new tenders or announcements of new building plans in the settlements since he won a new term in January elections.

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‘‘It seems that Netanyahu took it upon himself to follow a policy of restraint,’’ Peace Now said in a statement.

It said Netanyahu was probably trying to avoid colliding with the United States at a time when Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting to restart peace negotiations.

The group said it did not know how long the freeze on new settlement building would hold, and noted that previously started settlement building is proceeding.

The Yesha settlers council, which promotes settlement construction, also said a freeze was in place. Yigal Dilmoni, a Yesha official, said Netanyahu’s office confirmed to him that the prime minister has stopped approving housing tenders.

Peace talks broke down in 2008 and have remained stalled in large part because of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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