Israel Moves Forward With Settlement Construction Plan

Posted September 27th, 2011 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Israel is going ahead with a plan to construct 1,100 new housing units in east Jerusalem, a move that could further strain efforts for renewed peace talks with Palestinians.

An Israeli district committee approved the plan for settlement construction in Gilo on Tuesday. The measure must now pass a 60-day public comment period, during which objections can be raised.

Palestinians oppose Israeli building on land they want as part of a future state.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year after an Israeli freeze on West Bank settlement construction expired.

The impasse in talks prompted Palestinians to seek United Nations statehood recognition last week. The U.N. Security Council is set to formally consider the Palestinians' request for statehood and full U.N. membership on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy Chief Katherine Ashton criticized Israel's latest housing expansion, saying the settlement plan “threatens the viability” of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

The EU is part of the group known as the Middle East Quartet. The group, which also includes the U.S., U.N. and Russia, has proposed a resumption in talks between the two sides.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would not renew a construction freeze in order to get Palestinians to agree to the Quartet's plan for new talks. He told the Jerusalem Post that Palestinian insistence on the settlement issue shows a lack of interest in negotiations.

On Sunday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told supporters in Ramallah that he would resume peace talks only if Israel stopped building settlements in occupied territory.

The Quartet's plan calls for a preliminary meeting between Israel and the Palestinians within a month. The meeting would be followed by a return to regular talks and progress on security and borders within 90 days. It envisions the completion of a peace deal no later than the end of 2012.