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Israeli defense ministry says plans for new West Bank settlement housing moving forward

Members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine chant slogans against peace negotiations with Israeli, while participating in a demonstration in the West Bank city of Jenin, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. The Arabic, front, reads, "Release prisoners and stopping the settlement is the basis to start negotiations." (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)The Associated Press

Israel's defense ministry says plans to build 800 new housing units in the West Bank are moving forward.

The ministry said on Monday it had approved a planning stage for the housing earlier this month. The approval is an initial step in a protracted bureaucratic process and construction is not expected to begin for months.

The approval comes as Israel and the Palestinians are conducting quiet, behind-the-scenes peace talks. The Palestinians want the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, as part of a future state and oppose Israeli settlement building.

The housing plans were originally announced last month, following Israel's release of 26 Palestinian prisoners. That move was part of a deal that brought the two sides back to negotiations.