Israel invites bids for nearly 1,200 new settlement homes

Jerusalem. Israel has invited bids to build nearly 1,200 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem
Israel has made a major push on settlement building in the occupied West Bank since July 30. Net photo.
Israel has made a major push on settlement building in the occupied West Bank since July 30. Net photo.

Jerusalem. Israel has invited bids to build nearly 1,200 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.

Housing Minister Uri Aiel, a member of the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, made the announcement on Sunday, just two days before a planned release of long-term Palestinian prisoners ahead of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Palestinians said the new Israeli plans for settlement construction showed that the Jewish state was “not serious” in its efforts to negotiate peace.

Mohammed Shtayeh, a Palestinian negotiator, said that Israel “aims through this condensed settlement activity to destroy the basis of the solution called for by the international community, which aims to establish a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”

Israel has made a major push on settlement building since July 30.

Israeli media suggested in unconfirmed reports that the new housing plans were disclosed to the US in advance and had been aimed partly at overcoming opposition within the pro-settlement cabinet to the prisoner releases.

“I saw that important newspapers reported this morning that there is purportedly some kind of co-ordination regarding the construction,” Ariel said on Army Radio.

“I very much believe the newspapers and the media but I don’t know whether I can authenticate this.” Israel’s Housing Ministry said on its website that tenders were issued for 793 new apartments in areas of the West Bank that Israel annexed after capturing the territory and the eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

Plots for 394 more units were being sold in the West Bank settlements of Ariel, Efrat, Maale Adumim and Betar, it said. While condemning settlement expansion, Palestinians have stopped short of threatening outright to abandon the peace negotiations, which are due to go into a second round on Wednesday in Jerusalem after a session in Washington.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, told Reuters news agency that the international community must stand with the peace, “shoulder to shoulder with us and hold Israel accountable for its continuing settlement activities”.

“Continuing settlement activity means dictations not negotiations,” he said. Israel was expected to free a first group of 26 Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday out of a total of 104 Arab inmates whose release was approved last month to help restart the talks.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, had called for the release of prisoners held since before a 1993 interim peace accord took effect.

Israel has jailed thousands more Palestinians since then.

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