Surprise as Israel blocks settlement building in West Bank and East Jerusalem

Move was key demand of Palestinians as precursor to any renewed peace talks

Jerusalem

Israel made the surprise move earlier today of effectively freezing settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - a key demand of the Palestinians as a precursor to any renewed peace talks between the two sides.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his new Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, not to press ahead with government tenders for as many as 3,000 new homes in occupied territory that Palestinians see 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.

In the weeks before January's general election Mr Netanyahu announced plans for many new homes in settlements, which are considered illegal under international law. At the time, a number of political analysts suggested that the move was to counter the growing popularity of Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right wing Jewish Home Party. Mr Bennett is now the Economy Minister in Mr Netanyahu's government. Mr Ariel, who is also in the Jewish Home party, is himself a settler.

Last night, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said: "Israel has a clear obligation under international law to immediately cease all settlement activity. We have not been notified of any changes to Israel's colonial plans, including ongoing construction in dozens of Israeli settlements in the occupied state of Palestine, including in and around our occupied capital, East Jerusalem."

The US president Barack Obama has been trying to broker a new peace initiative between the two sides following his visit to the region in March. He staged a press conference in Ramallah - the Palestinian administrative capital - with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and made it clear that he would not press the Israelis to agree to another settlement freeze as a pre-condition to fresh talks. The Palestinians had earlier insisted on such a moratorium.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • 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: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Surveyor

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Support

£9000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence