Israel Friday announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, days after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region to push peace talks in which settlements represent a major hurdle.
Although widely expected, the announcement angered some of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own coalition partners and infuriated the Palestinians, who accused Israel of seeking to derail the peace negotiations.
“The recent announcement shows Israel’s clear commitment to the destruction of peace efforts and the imposition of an apartheid regime,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement.
“(This) is a test for the US administration’s ability to hold Israel accountable for actively sabotaging their efforts for peace.”
Friday’s move followed a pattern whereby Israel issues new tenders for building shortly after releasing Palestinian prisoners.
Some 26 Palestinians were freed at the end of last month, the third batch to be let go according to the terms of a deal brokered by Washington to secure the resumption of peace talks last July following a three-year hiatus.
Israel’s Housing Ministry said it planned to construct 801 housing units in the West Bank and another 600 in East Jerusalem, all on land seized in the 1967 war and which Palestinians want for their future state.
The ministry also re-issued tenders for 582 units in East Jerusalem that had previously failed to attract bids from contractors.