Israel has given the go ahead to the construction of 1,100 Jewish housing units in the disputed area of east Jerusalem. Both the US and the EU expressed criticism of the plan.
According to a statement by Israel’s Interior Ministry, the homes would be built in Gilo, a Jewish enclave in southeast Jerusalem.
The US said it was “deeply disappointed” and called the approved plan “counterproductive.”
The US’s reaction was echoed by the EU. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, called on Israel to reverse the decision, saying it would likely further complicate relations with the Palestinians.
“This plan should be reversed,” she said in the statement. “Settlement activity threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution and runs contrary to the Israeli-stated commitment to resume negotiations.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Israeli decision amounted to “1,100 no’s to the resumption of peace talks,” according to the Associated Press.
“There is nothing to hold direct talks about,” Jeff Halper, a political activist and co-founder of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, told RT. “I don’t think the Palestinians are going to fall in that trap again. It is clear that on the ground nothing is stopping Israel. Over the last 44 years, they have made its occupation irreversible.”
The move comes days after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called for the UN to recognize Palestine as an independent state.
Israel’s Interior Ministry said the construction could begin after a mandatory 60-day period for public comment, a process that spokesman Roi Lachmanovich called a formality, the Associated Press reported.
The plan includes the construction of small housing units, public buildings, a school and an industrial zone.
As a precondition for peace talks, the Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt all settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which were captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
The diplomatic Quartet – the UN, EU, US and Russia – urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume their direct negotiations “within a month.”
Israelis authorities have approved the building of nearly 3,000 homes in Gilo over the past two years.
“Israel goes ahead with the settlements because it can – nobody is going to really stop it,” Halper concluded.