Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
The Palestinian Authority and the US on Thursday condemned Israel’s decision to
advance plans to build 296 homes in the West Bank Beit El settlement, warning
that it could sabotage American efforts to revive the frozen peace
“We see this decision as a message to the US administration and a
blow to the peace process,” said PA presidency spokesman Nabil Abu
“The Israeli government is aiming at dragging the area toward
violence instead of peace and stability by approving such plans. This shows that
the Israeli government is not interested in peace in the region,” Abu Rudaineh
US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters at
the daily briefing in Washington that US President Barack Obama has consistently
warned that settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of
“That is something we have said many times,” he said.
Palestinians and the US spoke one day after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had
approved for deposit with the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria
construction plans for the 296 homes.
His signature allows the plans to
advance bureaucratically, but does not guarantee that they will receive final
authorization to be built.
The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria
must now advertise the plans in a newspaper, after which begins a 60-day period
for the public to register objections, before the council authorizes the plans
from a technical perspective.
Once all the technical approvals are
finished, Ya’alon will need to sign off on the documents before construction can
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to build the homes in
June, as part of a deal reached with 33 families living in the Ulpana outpost
located at the outskirts of the settlement, whose homes were demolished as the
result of a High Court of Justice ruling.
The settlers agreed to leave
their homes without physical resistance, in exchange for a pledge by government
officials to build 296 new homes.
News that the plans had been deposited
came amidst a flurry of renewed diplomatic activity to restart direct
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni told Army Radio on Thursday she heard plans for the Beit El homes had been
deposited, immediately after leaving her meeting in Rome with US Secretary of
State John Kerry about renewing the peace process.
The project is not a
new one, and therefore there is no need for “drama,” she said.
immediately updated the Americans, even before they asked.” she
“They listened, they heard us, and as now, they have not
News of the project’s advancement also comes amidst a claim
by settlers that Netanyahu has frozen new construction tenders for public
housing projects in four settlements – Efrat, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev and Karnei
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said that freezing tenders for
government-funded projects in the settlements has a very limited impact on West
Bank settlement activity.
Much of the construction is private and does
not require tenders, she said.
There are many settlement-building
projects in the pipeline, which have all their approvals, she
Yigal DelMonti, a spokesman for the Council of Jewish Communities
of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said he didn’t understand why every
bureaucratic step of the building process made headlines.
The project, he
said, had already been announced, and approvals had not been
“There is nothing new here,” he said.