Israel this week advanced plans for 642 new settler homes in the West Bank as an Israeli delegation was in Washington to discuss the peace process with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Palestinians have insisted that continued settlement activity is destroying the peace process and the US has repeatedly said that it is not helpful.
But Washington State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki ducked questions from reporters about the new settlement plans.
“Our position on settlements is clear and well known,” she said.
Israel has maintained that there is no relationship between settlement building and the peace process.
On Wednesday the Judea and Samaria Higher Planning Council approved for validation plans plans for 256 homes in Nofei Prat, located 8.8 kilometers beyond the pre-1967 lines. The project would substantively change the nature of the small community of some 400 people.
According to the non-governmental group Peace Now there are 70 permanent housing units and approximately 30 mobile homes in Nofei Prat. In addition there are 24 mobile homes located in the nearby outpost of Giva't Granit, according to Peace Now.
Technically Nofei Prat is part of the larger Kfar Adumim settlement of some 3,500 residents, located outside of Jerusalem in the direction of the Dead Sea.
Separately the council on Wednesday also approved for deposit plans for five homes in the West Bank settlement city of Ariel which is home to 18,000 people and is located 16 kilometers over the pre-1967 lines in Samaria. Both plans were published for validation on the Ministry of Interior's website and are expected to be published in local newspapers in the upcoming days, according to Peace Now. It added that 15 days after the newspaper publication the plans would be valid and building could start.
Earlier this week, the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria published deposited plans for 381 new homes in Givat Ze’ev. The settlement, which is located outside Jerusalem 4.9 kilometers over the pre-1967 lines, is home to over 12,000 people. There are to be 60 days for the public to raise objections to the plan.
According to the civil administration, once the council signs off on this stage, there are still a number of bureaucratic steps and approvals necessary before building can begin.
According to Peace now the organization Elad deposited plans for the visitor center, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, to be called ‘Beit HaMa’ayan,’ with the Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Construction on Tuesday.
There is to be a 60-day period in which the public can file objections against the plan. The center would cover 1,203 square meters and be located above an archeological site called the Gihon spring, Peace Now said.
It noted that Elad also deposited plans two months ago for a large center that would be known as the Kedem Center or Givati Parking lot, Peace Now said.
Both visitor centers, it said, would expand the Jewish area in Silwan, City of David, located just outside the Old City walls.
Peace Now charged that the new visitor centers would “greatly alter the area, and will likely fuel greater conflict” between Israel and the Palestinians.
Separately, The announcements of both projects come a few weeks after Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners who had been involved in terrorist activity. It was the third stage in a four-part process, by which Israel made good on a pledge it made to the Palestinians in July to release 104 prisoners during the nine-month negotiating process that ends in April.
The government has linked housing announcements over the pre-1967 lines to those releases. Lior Amihai of Peace Now noted that the Givat Ze’ev project had been advanced with each release.
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