Israel has announced plans to build nearly 300 additional homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. For the Palestinians it has hardened their resolve to seek statehood from the UN.
Tenders have been put out seeking builders to expand two settlements, outside Jerusalem and near Nablus.
Last year Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected US appeals to extend a temporary halt to new building.
Since then Palestinians have refused to hold talks with Israel unless it completely freezes settlement activity.
They say the move could hinder the two states solution.
“The Israeli decision to give permits in order to build inside the Israeli settlements restricts the solution of having two states and restricts the opportunities for peace in the region. It also puts the region in danger of a return to the cycle of violence,” said Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib.
The Israeli housing ministry has linked the new construction to a nationwide plan to lower skyrocketing housing prices.
An Israeli watchdog called Peace Now has said the building plans show the Israeli government “isn’t moving towards peace”.