x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Israel to build 1,213 new settlement homes

Israeli government accused of timing the announcement that it will build another 1,213 homes on Palestinian land to coincide with US presidential election to divert the public's attention.

JERUSALEM // Israel yesterday published tenders for more than 1,200 new homes in settlement neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem, drawing fire from Palestinians who said it made them more determined to seek greater UN status.

The Israeli watchdog group Peace Now, citing documents published by the Israeli housing ministry, said tenders were offered for 607 units in Pisgat Zeev and 606 units in Ramot, both in east Jerusalem.

It added that 72 units were re-offered in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Peace Now, which opposes Israeli settlement in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, slammed the new tenders, noting that they come after the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his commitment to peace negotiations in an interview with Israeli television.

"Abbas declared again his strong commitment to the two state solution, and [the Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu replied with thousands of new units in settlements," the group said.

It accused the Israeli government of timing the announcement as Americans go to the polls in a closely-watched presidential election.

"It seems that Netanyahu is afraid of the new administration that is being elected today in the US, and he has chosen the day of election to publish the tenders so that there will be the least public attention to his action."

The Palestinians also condemned the announcement, saying it illustrated why they plan to approach the United Nations to seek non-member status at the General Assembly this month.

"We condemn these new settlement decisions and the continuing settlement policy of the Israeli occupation government is what is motivating us to claim our full rights by going to the UN to achieve non-member status," Mr Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.