A stop sign is seen outside a West Bank Jewish settlement Photo: Reuters
The officials would not say where the planned building would take place, or how many units would be involved.
Under the agreements reached with the US and the Palestinian Authority in July that enabled the current round of negotiations, Israel is scheduled to release on Sunday a third batch of 26 Palestinian terrorists convicted of attacks before the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israel has agreed to release a total of 104 prisoners by the end of the nine-month negotiating period, and has already set free half that number.
The decision to announce plans for more construction beyond the Green Line comes despite US and European appeals not to do so, and warnings that such a move could torpedo the talks.
Israel's position is that it made no commitment in July to freeze settlement construction, and that both the US and the Palestinians were aware that construction would continue.
Both previous prisoner releases were accompanied by settlement construction announcements, widely viewed as a way to make the very unpopular release of the convicted terrorists more palatable to the right wing elements inside the coalition. Most – but not all -- of the units announced then were for Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the 1967 lines, and for communities inside the large settlement blocks.
Announcing the construction plans, one official said, did not in any way violate the agreement that led to the renewal of the talks with the Palestinians. He said Israel was "strictly abiding by" that agreement.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon addressed the upcoming prisoner release and the settlement construction during a tour of a Givati Brigade drill in the Binyamin region, saying that "we are not happy about releasing prisoners.
"I've said in the past that releasing prisoners stems from wider considerations. We are before the third release," he said, "and we'll hold talks in the right places to decide whether and who to release. As to the construction, I think it is our right to build, and certainly according to the understandings and agreements we have with the Americans."
Ya'alon, along with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who is a former head of the Shin Bet, make up the ministerial committee that in the coming days is to draw up the list of those prisoners to be released.
Ya'alon, addressing rising Palestinian violence in the West Bank, said organized groups were not behind the attacks, but rather individual attackers like the man who stabbed policeman Rami Ravid at Kikar Adam earlier this week.
"We'll know how to deal with this, whether by reinforcing forces or by getting to every terrorist and holding him to account," he stated.
Ya'alon said Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic talks were sparking incitement. Since the talks began in July six Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks, as opposed to only one terrorist fatality from January through July. He said it was clear these attacks "are the results of incitement," and blamed the Palestinian Authority for incitement to hatred against Israel.
Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev was even more blunt, saying "the terrorist attacks against Israelis over the last few days are a direct result of the incitement and hatred propagated in Palestinian schools and media."
He said Israel was "disappointed that so far [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas has not condemned these acts of terrorism as one would expect from a partner in peace talks."
Turning to Tuesday's sniper attack from the Gaza Strip, Ya'alon reiterated Israel's position that Hamas was in control of Gaza, and that Jerusalem expected it to prevent other armed organizations from attacking the country.
"Should Hamas fail to restrain other terror groups from firing on Israel, Gaza will not experience quiet," he warned, adding, "I hope that Hamas and the other organizations understood this matter, and will calm down. For added safety, we are prepared for the possibility of an escalation. We've mobilized an Iron Dome battery [to the south], and have carried out additional preparations."