The Israeli government has approved plans to build 12-hundred homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem – a move that threatens to undermine fresh peace talks according to the Palestinians.
The two sides are due to meet on Wednesday after a three-year hiatus.
For the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat,Israel’s plans are aimed at scuppering any chance of progress.
“These things are determined to undermine the peace
negotiations, and force people like us to leave the talks table,” said Erekat.
But the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman, Mark Regev, says the housing plans do not have any relation with topics on the talks table.
“In every peace plan that has been on the table in the last 15 years, those areas say “stay part of Israel”. And I fail to see how building in these areas prevents the peace process from moving forward,” he said.
Given that disputes over settlements led directly to the break up of the last talks in 2010, critics say it’s likely the Israeli government is trying to appease pro-settlement supporters who oppose its agreement to free Palestinian prisoners – a move aimed at spurring negotiations.