Israel to build 1 400 more homes in the West Bank
JERUSALEM: Israel plans to build 1 400 homes in its settlements in the occupied West Bank and will announce the projects next week after releasing a group of Palestinian prisoners, according to an Israeli official.
The Palestinians have said any further expansion of Israeli settlements on land they seek for a state could derail US-brokered peace talks that resumed in July after a three-year break and are set to last until April.
Israel has been expected to release about two dozen Palestinians, the third group to be freed since the talks resumed, by the middle of next week and to announce a new settlement push of hitherto undisclosed size shortly afterwards.
The Israeli government official said about 600 homes would be announced in Ramat Shlomo, a settlement of mainly UltraOrthodox Jews located in an area of the West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem in a move unrecognised internationally.
Another 800 would be built in other West Bank settlements
The Palestinians have said any further expansion of Israeli settlements could derail US-brokered peace talks
which Israel also plans to keep in any future peace deal, though the list was not yet finalised, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the move would “destroy the peace process” and could be met with retaliation.
“We in the Palestinian leadership would immediately present our application for membership in 63 international organisations, among them the International Criminal Court,” the al- Quds newspaper said.
Palestinians see the settlements as an obstacle to achieving a viable state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians won an upgrade to their UN status in 2012 from “entity” to “non-member state” in a vote perceived as a de facto recognition of statehood, and have threatened to join the International Criminal Court to confront Israel there.
Earlier this year, however, the Palestinians agreed to suspend any actions at the UN in exchange for the release of scores of Palestinians in Israeli jails. Israel agreed to release 104 long-serving Palestinian inmates who were convicted of killing Israelis at least 20 years ago as part of the package worked out by Washington to resume talks.
A previous round of negotiations broke down in 2010 in a dispute over settlement construction, and peace talks have shown little sign of progress. – Reuters