The United States has called Israel over its approval of 147 new West Bank
settler homes and its decision to advance plans for 949 other units just one
week after direct peace negotiations resumed in Washington.
round of talks is to be held in Jerusalem on August 14, State Department
spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed on Thursday at a press briefing in
She added that special envoy Martin Indyk and his deputy,
Frank Lowenstein, would travel to the region to help facilitate the
Another meeting is expected to be held in Jericho, Psaki said, but
she did not provide any further details with regard to those talks. On Tuesday,
in advance of Wednesday’s peace talks, Israel is expected to approve the release
of 26 of the 104 Palestinian prisoners that are to be freed during the coming
She chastised Israel for its continued West Bank settlement
“We are speaking to the government of Israel and making our
concerns known,” Psaki said. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy
of continued settlement activity and opposes any efforts to legitimize
She added, “The secretary has made clear that he
believes both the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith and are
committed to making progress.”
She clarified that the US had spoken
locally to Israel over the decisions taken Wednesday by the Higher Planning
Council with regard to West Bank settlement activity.
Minister’s Office had no comment on the matter.
An Israeli official
stressed that the bulk of the council’s actions involved preliminary
administrative decisions. Another decision would have to be taken before any
building could occur on those projects, the official said.
Palestinians reacted harshly to Wednesday’s actions of the Higher Planning
Council of Judea and Samaria.
“The reality on the ground says that Israel
is deliberately destroying the two-state solution and killing any sort of hope,”
said PLO Executive Committee member in charge of culture and information Dr.
She accused Israel of trying to sabotage the talks and of
attempting to annex the West Bank.
“It is evident that in absence of a
clear international response, our duty is to protect our land and our people
with the rightful tools of international legitimacy we have gained through
We should hold Israel accountable using international
instruments and venues,” she said.
The protocols of the meeting,
including the council’s decisions, had yet to be published as of press
Still, news of the council’s actions were first publicized on the
web site on Thursday.
Peace Now followed with a report based on
its own reading of the agenda and information from Ha’aretz
official confirmed that 95 new units had been approved in the Shiloh settlement,
located 27 km. away from the pre-1967 lines in the Binyamin region. Another 52
were approved for the Betar Illit settlement located on the pre- 1967 lines in
the Gush Etzion region, he said.
But he added he could not give any more
details in advance of the publication of the protocols from the meeting. Still,
he said, the numbers publicized by Ha’aretz were largely true.
to Peace Now, which based its report partly on the council’s agenda and partly
on Ha’aretz, the council agreed to deposit plans for 949 new homes, of which 569
were for the Talmon settlement 10 km. away from the pre-1967
In addition, the council agreed to deposit plans for 38 homes for
the Kochav Ya’acov, 7.7 km. away from the Green Line and 234 for Gilgal,
located 30 km. distant from the Green Line.
It agreed to deposit
plans for 31 homes for Almog located 20 km. away from the pre-1967 lines and and
60 for Alon Shvut located 4.6 km. away from the pre-1967 lines.
Palestinians have insisted that Israel must halt all West Bank settlement
activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem. Israel has refused to cede to
It was expected that Israel would continue settlement
activity while the talks were ongoing.