Is­rael to build 1 400 more homes in the West Bank

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

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

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