Middle East peace process dealt a blow as Israel gives go-ahead for 300 new homes in West Bank

 

Jerusalem

Hope earlier in the week that a decision to freeze the construction of new Israeli settler homes in the occupied West Bank could renew the moribund peace process were dealt a blow earlier today when it transpired that permission had been granted to build nearly 300 new houses close to the Palestinian administrative capital, Ramallah.

The announcement will disappoint Americans – especially the Secretary of State, John Kerry - who have spent two months attempting to broker a new deal between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships.

The Palestinians maintain a long held position that new talks are only possible with a new moratorium of settlement building. The Americans and Israelis say new talks should go ahead without pre-conditions. Settlements are considered illegal under international law.

Israel’s civil administration yesterday approved a plan to build 296 new houses in the settlement of Beit El. The scheme – which is the first settlement plan to be approved by Israel’s new government since it was sworn in in March - has already won approval from the Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon.

The move comes two days after the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the country’s Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, not to press ahead with government tenders for as many as 3,000 new homes in what the Palestinians have earmarked as part of their future state.

Mr Netanyahu made a similar move in 2010 before the last round of peace talks with the Palestinians that ultimately proved to be fruitless.

The Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said the latest move sent a clear message: that Israel was not interested in resuming direct talks. “We condemn this new decision which is proof that the Israeli government wants to sabotage and ruin the US administration's efforts to revive the peace process,” he told the AFP news agency.

“This is a message to the American administration and a blow to the peace process.”

Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Justice Minister, who also has responsibility for overseeing peace initiatives with the Palestinians, has been in Rome meeting with Mr Kerry ahead of his next trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah later this month. She attempted to quell the Palestinian outrage at the announcement.

“There is no need for this to become a pretext for drama or anger,” she told Israeli Army Radio, adding that the Americans were aware of the latest housing plan. “They listened and they understood, and for the moment, there is no reaction,” she said.

Peace activists inside Israel argued that the green light for the new homes proved that the Israeli government is not serious about any new peace initiative.

Hagit Ofran, who runs the Settlement Watch offshoot of the Peace Now group, said: “It seems Netanyahu is deceiving the public by claiming to have restrained the construction in settlements. The reported pause in publication of new tenders is halting only a small part of the construction in settlements, while the construction on the ground continues, and the initiation of new plans, even in isolated settlements, continues.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk