Middle East

Israel announces East Jerusalem settlements

Israel sets new plan for 1,500 homes in motion hours after it released 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of peace talks.

Last Modified: 30 Oct 2013 18:22
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The plan comes as the West Bank and Gaza celebrate the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners [Reuters]

Israel has announced plans to build 1,500 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem, the part of the city claimed by the Palestinians, just hours after it freed 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal to set peace talks in motion.

Interior Ministry Spokeswoman, Lital Apter, said Israel also plans to build an archaeology and tourism site near the Old City, home to Jerusalem's most sensitive holy sites.

Israel first announced the development plans in 2010 during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel, sparking a diplomatic rift with Washington that took months to mend.

The latest move is seen by some as an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make up for the prisoner release, for which he has been sharply criticised within Israel.

The prisoners have been jailed on charges ranging from throwing rocks to killing Israelis in bombings and gun attacks. There are roughly 5,000 Palestinian prisoners lodged in Israeli jails.

Plans to build the homes in the city's Arab sector emerged in Israeli media almost immediately after Israel began freeing 21 prisoners to the West Bank and another five to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip overnight.

The move is seen as an attempt by Netanyahu to make up for the recent prisoner release [Reuters]

Israel has a long history of lopsided prisoner exchanges with its Palestinian counterpart. This week's release of 26 prisoners appeared especially charged because Israel seemed to be getting little in return except an opportunity to conduct negotiations.

Palestinian anger

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said the settlement plan "destroys the peace process and is a message to the international community that Israel is a country that does not respect international law".

Under a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Palestinians agreed to resume talks in late July after Israel agreed to the release of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners. In all, 104 Palestinian convicts are to be released in four rounds over the coming months.

The Palestinians have long refused to resume peace negotiations with Israel unless it ends settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Settlement building in the territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War is considered illegal under international law, and the issue remains one of the most divisive in the decades-old conflict.

Israel has refused, insisting that settlements and other core issues, including security, should be resolved through negotiations.

Israeli anti-settlement group, Peace Now, said last week that housing starts in West Bank settlement are up by 70 percent this year.

It said there were 1,708 housing starts in January-June this year, compared with 995 during the same period in 2012.

Palestinians want the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for a future country but fear that more settlement building will deny them a viable state.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Some scientists say authorities in favour of nuclear energy tend to deny the negative results of researchers.
Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.
Taliban makes quick gains in Afghanistan with little opposition from Afghan army as US withdrawal begins.
Experts from Minamata, Japan check for signs of mercury illnesses in Ontario, Canada.
Record numbers of migrants have made harrowing sea journeys to Italy and Greece this year.
join our mailing list