Palestinian workers spread earth on a newly paved area at an apartment complex… (Jim Hollander, EPA )
JERUSALEM – For the second time in a week, Israel advanced plans for more than 1,000 new units of housing on land it seized in 1967, brushing aside U.S. pleas to curtail settlement construction while the Obama administration attempts to revive long-stalled peace talks.
Israel’s Housing Ministry said Sunday that it would publish tenders for 1,187 units of housing, including 793 units in Jewish developments in the Jerusalem area and 394 units in the West Bank.
Palestinians say Israel’s building announcements are sabotaging the renewed peace process, relaunched last month by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. A second round of talks is set to resume in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Last week, Israel’s military advanced about 1,100 units of previously announced housing units, most of them in small, isolated settlements that Israel is unlikely to retain if and when a Palestinian state is created.
Most of the international community views Israel’s settlement construction as illegal.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel defended Israel’s right to build and said the latest tenders will help lower soaring housing costs.
“This is the right thing at the right time, both from a Zionist and economic standpoint,’’ he said.
Most of the new units will be on land that Israel considers part of Jerusalem, though Palestinians and the international community never recognized Israel’s annexation of the territory into the city. It includes 400 units in Gilo, 210 in Har Homa and 183 in Pisgat Zeev.
Other units will be offered in West Bank settlements, including 117 in Ariel, 149 in Efrat, 92 in Maale Adumim and 36 in Beit Illit, the Housing Ministry said.
Finance Minster Yair Lapid criticized the construction, calling it a “double mistake.”
He called the plans an “unnecessary act of defiance against the U.S.” that “puts a spoke in the wheel of peace talks.”
He said if Israel wants to address its housing shortages, it should focus instead on high-demand areas rather than West Bank settlements.
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