Middle East peace: The concrete proof of Israel’s opposition to a two-state solution - the construction of nearly 14,000 homes in occupied territories

A fourfold increase in settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem seen as key reason for failure of peace talks

Jerusalem

Israel increased settlement work fourfold during the latest round of peace talks, pushing ahead with the construction of nearly 14,000 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a watchdog group has said.

Peace Now issued its statistics as a nine-month negotiating period between Israel and the Palestinians came to a close. The group cited Israel’s construction surge as a key reason for the failure.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had envisioned brokering a final peace agreement when he brought the sides together last July. But talks made no progress and were characterised by a lack of trust, in large part because of continued Israeli construction in captured territories claimed by the Palestinians.

The Palestinians seek the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with the Gaza Strip, for an independent state. They say Israeli construction is a sign of bad faith.

Israel captured all three areas in 1967, although it withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Today, more than 550,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making it more difficult to divide the territory.

Mr Kerry sparked uproar in Israel after warning in a closed forum that it could become an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. On Monday, he sought to clarify his use of language, saying he was only expressing his belief that creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel was the only viable way to end the long-running conflict.

Most demographers believe the Arab population of Israel, along with the West Bank and Gaza, will soon outnumber the Jewish population. Without a two-state solution, Israel’s position as a democracy with a Jewish majority could be in jeopardy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on Mr Kerry’s remarks. But Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, criticised them. “Shame on you Kerry! There are words that mustn’t be said,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

According to Peace Now, Israel promoted plans or issued tenders for construction of 13,851 homes during the talks. These included tenders, or bids for construction, of 4,868 homes, nearly half in the West Bank alone.

The group said the number of tenders, including earlier bids that were reissued, was more than quadruple the average level of construction of the previous two Israeli governments. And citing government figures, the number of housing starts in the second half of 2013, some 828 new units, was nearly double the level a year earlier.

Peace Now said the settlement activity was “destructive for the American efforts” and undermined trust. “It also created facts on the ground that proved more than anything else that the Netanyahu government did not mean to go for a two-state solution” and instead tried to strengthen Israeli control over occupied territory.

Settlement construction was one of several obstacles that emerged during the negotiations.

The Palestinians said Israel failed to present proposals on key issues, such as the final borders between Israel and a future Palestine. Israel also refused to carry out a release of long-serving Palestinian prisoners that it had promised at the outset of the talks.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
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

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'