Quartet 'greatly concerned' by Ariel housing plans

US, Russia, EU, and UN issue joint statement expressing alarm over Jerusalem's announcement of new construction in the settlement of Ariel.

Ariel 521 (photo credit: Joanna Paraszczuk)
Ariel 521
(photo credit: Joanna Paraszczuk)
The so-called Middle East Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations on Tuesday said they were alarmed by Israel's latest announcements about new settlement plans.
"The Quartet is greatly concerned by Israel's recent announcements to advance planning for new housing units in Ariel and East Jerusalem," the mediating group said in a joint statement
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On Monday, the Defense Ministry put out a simple statement notifying the media that it had approved the marketing of 277 homes in the Neuman neighborhood of Ariel.
Some 100 of those homes are designated for evacuees from the former Gaza settlement of Netzarim.
The move follows the publication in July of tenders for 336 homes in West Bank settlements, including 294 housing units in Betar Illit and 42 in Karnei Shomron.
The United States and the Palestinians also on Monday accused Israel of harming attempts to revive the peace process by approving the construction of 277 homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
“We have seen reports of this approval for apartments in the West Bank. We consider it deeply troubling,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
“These kinds of actions are counterproductive to the resumption of direct negotiations. We have raised this issue with the Israeli government. We will continue to make our position known,” she said.
Nabil Abu Rudainah, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the approvals were “an Israeli attempt to obstruct and destroy what is left of any effort to revive the peace process.”
It was an act, he said, that justified Palestinian plans to seek statehood unilaterally at the United Nations rather than through a negotiated agreement with Israel.
“Once again, these Israeli settlement measures represent a strong reason calling on us to go to the United Nations and the Security Council to request membership for the state of Palestine and to halt these Israeli measures,” Rudainah told Reuters.
These are some of the the largest approvals to be granted in settlements since the 10-month moratorium on Jewish housing starts in Judea and Samaria expired in September 2010.
According to Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman it’s the largest single project to be approved in his city for a decade.
“It is the first time in 10 years that we received such a permit,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
He said that the approvals allowed for the completion of an existing neighborhood where building had been halted due to US pressure.
With a population of 17,559 according to the Central Bureau of Statistics’ 2009 census, Ariel is the fourth-largest Jewish community in Judea and Samaria