Israel’s decision to build 1,000 new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem is “destroying” efforts by Washington’s top diplomat to revive the peace process, a Palestinian official said on Thursday.
“We consider the recent decision of the Israeli government to build a thousand homes in east Jerusalem as effectively destroying the efforts of (US Secretary of State) Kerry,” top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.
He accused Israel of having “a systematic plan for destroying Kerry’s efforts which involves an escalation of settlement building, a displacement of the population of the Jordan Valley, an increase of settler attacks against our people and confiscation of our land.”
Erakat’s remarks came just hours after an NGO told AFP Israel was preparing to build more than 1,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem as Washington is locked in a major push to revive dormant peace talks.
Danny Seidemann, director of Jerusalem settlement watchdog Terrestrial Jerusalem, said contracts had been signed for 300 homes in Ramot and another 797 plots were to be offered for sale in Gilo.
Both are in mainly-Arab areas of the Holy City which were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
The news emerged just days after Kerry’s latest trip to the region, his fourth visit in as many months.
Settlement construction was the issue which brought about a collapse of peace talks in September 2010 and the Palestinians say they will not return to negotiations while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.
Earlier this month, a report on army radio said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had frozen tenders for new West Bank construction to avoid hampering US peace efforts.
Officials refused to comment on the report, but settlement watchdog Peace Now confirmed that not a single tender had been issued in months.
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