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Israel Announces New Settlement Construction Amid U.S. Peace Efforts

 

Construction site in the West Bank settlement of Modiin Ilit. Photo by AP

Construction site in the West Bank settlement of Modiin Ilit. Photo by AP

Israel’s Construction and Housing Ministry issued building tenders for 1,400 housing units to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank Friday. The announcement came four days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left the region.

Tenders were released for the construction of 600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem, which lies over the Green Line, and a further 801 units in settlement blocs in the West Bank. Israel will build 227 housing units in Efrat, 78 in Alfei Menashe, 86 in Karnei Shomron, 40 in Ariel, 75 in Adam, 24 in Beitar Illit, 102 in Immanuel and 169 in Elkana.

In addition, tenders were released for the construction of 532 units in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, across the Green Line. The plots for these units were marketed in the past but found no buyers and were placed back on the market. These include 182 units in Pisgat Ze’ev, 294 in Ramot and 56 in Neve Yaakov.

The announcement that was already made in conjunction with the release of Palestinian prisoners just a few weeks ago was postponed out of respect to Kerry’s visit to the region.  Finance Minister Yair Lapid responded calling the tenders “devoid of substance” and said the new construction is a bad idea and vowed his party will fight against it.

It seems that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the bid now in order to avoid upsetting the right-wing hardliners in his government. However, it is only a matter of time before the international community will reprimand Israel for the new approval.

The Palestinian leadership has said repeatedly that any settlement construction would severely damage the peace process. Speaking to the press outside of the Muqata’a Presidential Compound in Ramallah on January 4th, Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “We really hope that the Israeli side would refrain from any acts of prejudice or preempt the outcome of permanent status negotiations, i.e. settlement activity and home demolitions.”

The EU has previously warned Israel of backlash if construction plans are issued during peace talks. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry summoned Dutch Ambassador to Israel Caspar Veldkamp in response to his country’s growing anti-Israel stance.

Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel is currently on an official visit to the United States, where he is expected to meet with representatives of Jewish communities and U.S. experts on public housing. He will also most likely have to smooth over the effect the announcement will undoubtedly have on Kerry’s peace making efforts. “The new settlement construction plan is a message from Netanyahu to Kerry to not come back to the region to continue his efforts in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks” Saeb Erekat told AFP. Kerry does plan to return to the region in a week or so, but hopefully for more than just a punishment and apology tour.

 

 

Author

Samantha Quint
Samantha Quint

My name is Samantha, I’m 25, and I made Aliyah in June 2013. I got my BA degree from George Washington University where I studied Jewish Studies and Middle East Studies. During my Junior year, I spent the traditional semester abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since then Israel kept pulling me back, first with a summer professional course on peacemaking in Jerusalem and the West Bank and then a move to Tel Aviv to get my MA in Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston. I have a unyielding passion for traveling, Boston sports teams, and making the people around me laugh.

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