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Erekat: Israel sabotaging US peace efforts with new settler homes
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
01/10/2014
Israel announces 800 new homes in W. Bank, 600 in e. J'lem; Lapid: Yesh Atid will do everything it can to block the building.
 
Israel is sabotaging the US efforts to broker a peace deal, warned Palestinian chief negotiator Sa'eb Erekat as he lashed out at Israel on Friday for publishing tenders for 800 new homes in West Bank settlements and 600 in east Jerusalem.

“The announcement of yet more settlement units at this particular moment is a test for the US administration's ability to hold Israel accountable for actively sabotaging their efforts for peace,” said Erekat.

He urged the international community “to sever all ties with the Israeli occupation, including companies and institutions involved in the colonization of Palestine.”

By doing so, Erekat said, “the international community can protect and help to realize the two-state solution.”

Israel on Friday published tenders for 600 new homes in east Jerusalem and 801 in West Bank settlements.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yes Atid) vowed that the party he heads would do everything it could to block the building of the 1400 new units over the pre-1967 lines.

"These are not building tenders, but declarations to build that are void of content. It's a bad idea. Yesh Atid will do everything it can to ensure that it remains simply a bad idea and won't be executed."

European leaders and the US had urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to move forward with new building plans, because such measures are harmful to the peace process.

Israel refused to cede to that request but did agree to delay its announcement until after US Secretary of State John Kerry finished his visit to the region earlier this week to advance the nine-month negotiating process that ends in April.

Of the new building, 600 units will be in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo near Ramot, Har Haotzvim and Shuafat neighborhoods.

Initial reports of plans for Ramat Shlomo homes published during a 2010 while US Vice President Joseph Biden was in Israel, marred the visit and created a problem for the indirect talks that had been taking place at the time.

In addition, on Friday the Ministry of Construction and Housing published tenders for 801 new homes in the following West Bank settlements: 227 units in Efrat, 78 in Alfei Menashe, 86 in Karnei Shomron, 40 in Ariel, 75 in Geva Binyamin (Adam), 24 in Beitar Illit, 102 in Emmanuel and 169 in Eliana.

All these settlements are located within the planned route of the security barrier and a number of them are close to the Green Line, with Beitar Ilit located only .4 kilometers over it. Efrat is located 6.5 k. over the pre-1967 lines as is Elkana. Alfei Menashe is 2.8 k. passed those lines, Elkana is located 3.1 kilometers over the pre-1967 lines, Geva Binaymin is 6.6 k. over the lines, Karnei Shomron is 9 k. beyond it, Immanuel 13.2 k. beyond it and Ariel is 16.1 k. beyond it.

Anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said that Friday's announcement meant that since direct talks had resumed last year, Israel had unveiled plans for some 5,349 new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Palestinians believe that these settlements, and all the land beyond the pre-1967 lines, should be part of their future state. They have, therefore, argued that continued building is a stumbling bloc to peace and wants Israel to halt all such activity.

Israel believes that a final status agreement for a two state solution will place most of the West Bank settlements under Israeli sovereignty.

It has argued, that any settlement freeze pre-determines the future borders of a two state solution outside the context of negotiations.

Israel has said that as a gesture to the peace process it agreed in July to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, involved in terror attacks against Israel, in four separate stages during the nine-month talks.

Some 78 prisoners have since been freed in three releases, the last of which took place at the end of December.

Netanyahu said at the start of the nine-month talks that Israel would be building throughout and has timed announcements of new building to coincide with the prisoner releases.

On Friday, the ministry also republished tenders for 532 east Jerusalem homes in the following neighborhoods; 182 in Psgat Ze’ev, 294 in Ramot and 56 in Neveh Yaakov.

The ministry said that tenders for these projects had already been published in past releases.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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