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Israel's 455 new settler homes appease Netanyahu allies

Though the approval of new building in West Bank settlements angered many, it appears to have preserved the prime minister's coalition.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to build 455 new homes in the West Bank achieved its primary goal of rallying support from conservative political allies, paving the way for an expected settlement freeze.

Though the move stoked frustration in the US, Europe, and especially in Arab countries, Netanyahu appears to have reduced the risk of a right-wing rebellion over what is expected to be a temporary building moratorium. While the US hoped that such a freeze would help jumpstart peace negotiations, the Israeli prime minister was concerned it could have triggered the deterioration of his governing coalition.

Risking a government "meltdown" for a settlement freeze alone would have been unwise, says Gidi Grinstein, president of the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv think tank.

"Netanyahu's challenge is to keep his coalition together until a moment of truth, out of which he may emerge without a coalition, but with a historic achievement," he says. "This is not a time that merits him using up political capital."

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