New building permits cast shadow over Middle East peace talks

Jewish settlers have permits to start building thousands of new homes within hours of the end of a 10-month construction freeze in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli watchdog revealed.

The Peace Now organisation said in a report that settlers have the necessary approvals for some 13,000 new homes, and could theoretically start building many of these as soon as the freeze ends in the last week of September.

The disclosure comes as the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, prepare to resume US-mediated peace talks in Egypt today.

The two leaders meet in an atmosphere of mutual distrust, not least over settlements, which are illegal under international law and are built on the territory that the Palestinians want as the basis for their future state. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel prolong the moratorium, first imposed last November to coax the Palestinians into talks, warning that they will otherwise cause the talks to collapse.

Mr Netanyahu, under pressure from his right-wing pro-settler coalition partners to stand firm, ruled out an extension over the weekend, although many believe that the government will impose a tacit freeze, which would limit construction through the permit approval process.

Peace Now said construction can start on 2,066 homes immediately, while settlers hold the necessary permits to start building once the freeze is lifted for a further 11,000 houses. Five thousand of those homes, it added, are located east of the separation fence, the Israeli-built barrier that broadly follows the 1967 border but at times substantially deviates from this into West Bank territory. Nevertheless, the watchdog admitted that many of these houses will likely not go ahead immediately, given insufficient demand or money.

Amid concerns that the talks could fail over the settlement issue before they have properly begun, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned last week that this round of talks are the "last chance".

Her words were an apparent nod to Mr Abbas's political difficulties after his mandate to lead expired last year. Hamas, the Islamist movement in Gaza that passionately rejects the talks, has enjoyed growing popularity in the West Bank in recent months.

Washington hopes to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to a framework agreement within one year, yet the two sides remain deeply divided over even relatively minor issues, such as the Palestinian reluctance to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Even the agenda of the talks is in dispute. The Palestinians want first to discuss borders, while Mr Netanyahu reportedly wants to start with security.

Some commentators in Israel say that the time for a two-state solution is already passing, largely because of the political difficulty in evacuating hundreds of thousands of hardline settlers who believe it is their God-given right to settle the whole of biblical Israel.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'