Israel approves controversial new settlements ahead of peace talks

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Israel approves controversial new settlements ahead of peace talks

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Plans to build at least 800 new homes for Israeli settlers in the West Bank have been initially approved, less than a week before talks between Israel and the Palestinians are due to resume,

Most world powers and the UN regard all Israeli settlements in the area as illegal.

Before construction is allowed, the final go-ahead must be given by the Israeli government.

Lior Amichai of the anti-settlement movement “Peace Now” queries the timing of the announcement:

“The government of Israel through the Civil Administration, a military body in the IDF (Israeli Defence Force), approved over 1,000 housing units in the West Bank settlements. This puts in question Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s true intentions going into the negotiations,” Amichai said.

Last month, while US Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting the region, Israel initially approved more than 700 hundred new homes at a settlement between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The plans for new Israeli homes in the West Bank could complicate the US-sponsored peace negotiations, the first direct talks in three years.

The Palestinian Authority had previously demanded a halt on all settlement construction in the Occupied Territories before peace talks could resume, but Israel rejects any preconditions.