Tags: Israel | Middle East | israel | palestinians

Israel Approves New Settlement Homes as Peace Talks Loom

By    |   Sunday, 11 August 2013 06:39 AM

JERUSALEM — Israel's housing minister on Sunday gave final approval to build nearly 1,200 apartments in Jewish settlements, just three days before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are to resume in Jerusalem.

The announcement by Housing Minister Uri Ariel was quickly denounced by Palestinians chief negotiator Erekat who said  Israel's plans were threatening the success of peace talks that resume on Wednesday after three-year hiatus.

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Speaking to Reuters news service at his office in the desert city of Jericho, near the border with Jordan, Erekat expressed optimism that renewed talks with Israel would continue but warned that Palestinian patience with the settlements was limited.

"Those who do these things are determined to undermine the peace negotiations, are determined to force people like us to leave the negotiating table," he said in an interview conducted before the latest Israeli announcement on settlement plans.
 
“If the Israeli government believes that every week they're going to cross a red line by settlement activity, if they go with this behavior, what they're advertising is the unsustainability of the negotiations," he added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had long insisted he would not resume talks without an Israeli settlement freeze, arguing that the expansion of settlements is pre-empting the outcome of negotiations.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967. Israel has built dozens of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that are now home to some 560,000 Israelis.

In the end, Abbas agreed to enter talks without a settlement freeze. In an apparent tradeoff, Israel agreed to release 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners in four installments over several months, with the first group of 26 to be freed Tuesday.

In Sunday's announcement, the Housing Ministry said 1,187 apartments had been given final approval, the last stage before issuing tenders to contractors. Of those, 793 will be built in neighborhoods for Jews in east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel shortly after the 1967 Mideast war. Most of the international community does not recognize the annexation.

In addition, 394 apartments are to be built in several large West Bank settlements, including Maaleh Adumim, Efrat and Ariel. The latter sits in the heart of the West Bank, and its expansion could be particularly problematic for negotiators trying to carve out a viable Palestinian state.

The housing minister, a leading member of the pro-settler party Jewish Home, said construction would continue.

"No country in the world takes orders from other countries where it can build and where it can't," Ariel said in his statement. "We will continue to market housing and build in the entire country . . . This is the right thing at the present time, for Zionism and for the economy."


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Israel's housing minister on Sunday gave final approval to build nearly 1,200 apartments in Jewish settlements, just three days before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are to resume in Jerusalem.
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2013-39-11
Sunday, 11 August 2013 06:39 AM
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