Israel settlement plan angers Palestinians
By Jean-Luc Renaudie ,AFPJERUSALEM -- Israeli authorities Tuesday announced the approval of 942 new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, sparking Palestinian fury on the eve of the resumption of fragile peace talks with Israel.
August 14, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
The Jerusalem municipality said that while it had only now given final approval for the new homes in Gilo, an existing settlement in east Jerusalem, they had been a long time in the planning.
But senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said the announcement, coupled with the weekend approval of around 1,200 homes to be built elsewhere in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank, threatened the “collapse” of talks.
“This settlement expansion is unprecedented,” Abed Rabbo said. “It threatens to make talks fail even before they've started.”
The last peace talks broke down in 2010 on the issue of settlement building.
The latest developments come as the Israelis are due to free 26 Palestinian long-term prisoners — the first of a batch of 104 to be released under a deal agreed to get the talks going again.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit to Colombia on Monday urged the Palestinians “not to react adversely” to the weekend Israeli settlement announcement.
Kerry, who took the lead in securing last month's resumption of peace talks after a three-year hiatus, stressed the need for the two sides to return to the negotiating table as planned on Wednesday in Jerusalem.
The city's deputy mayor Yosef Pepe Alalu told AFP the municipality had approved a construction plan for 942 homes in Gilo.
“This is a terrible decision which is a provocation against the Palestinians, the Americans and the whole world who oppose continued settlement building,” the leftwing municipal councilor said.
A Tuesday municipality statement confirmed the homes' approval but said they had been planned for a long time.
“The authorization (was) granted yesterday,” the statement from Mayor Nir Barakat's office said.
But “the housing development in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo was previously announced over two years ago.”