New Jerusalem settlement hits peace process

Israel is moving ahead with a project to build 1,400 new homes in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, a development that critics claim will deliver a death knell to the already faltering peace process.

The controversial plan drew furious condemnation from the Palestinian Authority and threatened to dash any prospect of a revival of the US-sponsored peace talks, which collapsed last year over the issue of Jewish settlements.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator, said. "This proves the Israeli government has chosen settlements over peace." Plans for the expansion, expected to be presented to Jerusalem's planning commission this week, were also criticised by Washington as "counterproductive" in efforts to get the two sides back into negotiations.

The international community last week condemned the demolition of an historic hotel in east Jerusalem to make way for 20 apartments for Jews, prompting a defiant declaration from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jews should be free to live where they like in the city.

This latest project would extend the existing Gilo settlement, a large neighbourhood in East Jerusalem built on lands captured by Israel in 1967 after the Six-Day War, and later annexed. All settlement construction in the occupied sector is regarded as illegal by the international community. The homes would be built on what is currently a picturesque hillside on the other side of the valley from the Cremisan monastery, a popular picnicking spot for Palestinians from the West Bank.

Campaigners opposed to the project fear the expansion of Gilo would lead to an unbroken ring of settlements stretching from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion, to the south of Bethlehem, effectively ensuring that that part of the West Bank is never handed back in a peace deal.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem councillor from the left-leaning Meretz party, said it might be years before the houses are actually built, but that the political repercussions could be immediate. "If there is any chance of the peace process being renewed, after this it's clear it will not happen," he said. "The Palestinians cannot live with this kind of provocation. If [US President Barack] Obama still believes the US can do something to bring peace in the Middle East, this is the time to do it."

The Palestinians have opposed settlements on the grounds that Israel cannot negotiate in good faith as long as it is building more settler homes on West Bank land that the Palestinians hope will form the basis of their future state. The Palestinians also covet East Jerusalem as their future capital and fear that Israel is attempting to predetermine its "indivisible" status.

But Israel remains unrepentant, arguing that there is an understanding that Israel will never hand back the Jewish areas in East Jerusalem.

"In every peace plan put forward over the last two decades, the Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem remained part of Israel in a final status [agreement]," said Mark Regev, the prime minister's spokesman. "The Palestinians have unfortunately adopted a position where they refuse to engage."

Israel's announcement that it would build 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem during US Vice-President Joe Biden's visit last March soured relations between the two countries for several months. Washington, meanwhile, is seeking ways to bring the two sides back to negotiations, but the Palestinians appear now to favour a plan to seek recognition in the United Nations.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • 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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own