Israeli officials on Thursday tried to douse a diplomatic fire Channel 10
ignited with its report about two building projects in Jewish neighborhoods of
east Jerusalem – of 1,100 units – that have been in the pipeline for
These east Jerusalem housing units are a real and official
destruction of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive the peace
process, Chief PLO Negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thursday.
Israeli officials noted that no new approvals had been given for east Jerusalem
housing and that the Palestinians understood this.
continue to look for excuses to escape negotiations," the official said. “In this case as
well, they have raced to the microphone with old recycled arguments and
incorrect data, rather than doing the one basic thing – to sit and talk on all
“Even now, Israel calls for the
immediate opening of direct negotiations.”
A US State Department
spokesperson Jen Psaki said that continued building in east Jerusalem undermined
the peace process.
Kerry has expressed his concern to Israel on
settlement activity publicly and privately, she said. The issue of settlement
building has come up with the Israelis in the last few weeks, she
But she cautioned, what is most important is that both sides,
Israelis and Palestinians, make the choice to move to
Israel has refused to meet the Palestinian demand that it
publicly declare a freeze of West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building
in east Jerusalem.
But, out of respect for Kerry's efforts, there is a
tacit understanding between Israel and Washington that Israel will temporarily
refrain from proactively authorizing new building plans over the pre- 1967
On Wednesday, Channel 10 reported that two contractors were
notified that they had been awarded a 300-unit housing project in the east
Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Ramot. It also stated that the Construction and
Housing Ministry had completed technical plans for 797 units in the east
Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Gilo West.
The ministry said that
tenders had been issued for Ramot over a year ago. It added that the Gilo West
project still needed authorization from a planning council before tenders could
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel’s spokesman said
it was his understanding that all such projects were frozen and that, for the
moment, authorization was not forthcoming.
But the Jerusalem Municipality
said it had future plans to build thousands of new units in all parts of
Jerusalem, for all sectors of its population. The municipality said new
construction is important so that young adults and students can live in the city
and buy apartments.
“The municipality has not changed its [building]
policy in 40 years. We will continue to build in all parts of the city, based on
a master plan for Jews and Arabs,” the municipality said.
It added that
authorization for new homes in Ramot was given 15 years go and that it was now
working to market tenders for that construction.
“In addition to the new
housing units, the Israeli government is practicing ethnic cleansing in occupied
east Jerusalem,” Erekat said during a meeting in Jericho with French and Russian
Erekat said that in the past 10 days Israel has
displaced 77 Palestinians after demolishing their homes in the city. The
Jerusalem Municipality says the houses were built without permits. Erekat
also condemned assaults on Palestinians and their properties by settlers in the
West Bank and unidentified assailants in east Jerusalem.
government is a government of settlers and for settlers,” he
“All what this government is doing is part of a strategy to
sabotage the efforts of Kerry and the two-state option.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the PA leadership was
keen on making Kerry’s mission succeed. Abbas also reiterated the
Palestinian commitment to achieving a just and comprehensive peace on the basis
of a two-state solution.
Abbas’s remarks came during a meeting in
Ramallah with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos. PLO Executive
Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said that the Israeli government bears full
responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process.
accused Kerry of visiting the region to “support Israel in its settlement
projects rather than break the deadlock.” He said that the Palestinians
were no longer pinning any hopes on the US Administration to revive the peace
process and added that the Palestinians have given Kerry a chance to stop
Israel’s settlement policies by June 7.
“If the deadline expires and
nothing new happens on the ground, there will be a new Palestinian strategy,
including going to the United Nations and joining the International Criminal
Court to file charges against Israel,” the PLO official said.