Preliminary plans for 238 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem has been unveiled by Israel, reports say. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
The housing ministry released a building plan including 158 homes in the Pisgat Zeev settlement and another 80 in Ramot.
The building plan comes while the Middle East peace talks, started early September, are in danger of collapsing because of the settlements. The Palestinians have threatened to walk away unless Israel renews its partial ban on West Bank settlements.
According to Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negociator, the move proved that Israel was intent on “killing” every opportunity to revive peace talks between the two sides, he told AFP news agency.
On Thursday, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the housing ministry’s plans for Pisgat Zeev, the Ynet news website said.
To Palestinians, Pisgat Zeev and neighbourhoods like it are settlements. They accuse Israel of using them in order to increase the Jewish presence in the mainly Arab east of the city.
However Israelis simply consider them suburbs of Jerusalem.
According to the international community East Jerusalem is occupied territory, and building on occupied land is illegal under international law.
The approval of the housing ministry plans was the first since March. Israel then gave the green light to plans for the construction of 1,600 new settler homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden, which prompted a major crisis with Washington.
The US are putting a lot of pressure on Netanyahu. They want him to extend a 10-month slowdown on the building of settler homes on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.
The freeze expired on 26 September, but it did not apply to East Jerusalem. However building projects there too were quietly held back in order to avoid any political fallout, Israeli press reports said.
Earlier this week, Netanyahu said he would renew the West Bank freeze, if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish state. The proposal was dismissed by the Palestinian leadership, saying it was unfair and unnecessary.
Since 1967, Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. Even thouth Israel disputes this, they are considered illegal under international law.
Backed by the Arab League, the Palestinians have pledged not to return to direct talks without a full settlement construction freeze.
Yet they have given the US a month to come up with a way to break the impasse.