Tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians grew Tuesday as Israel announced plans for over 1,000 new housing units outside of boundaries established during the 1967 war.
The New York Times reports that Israel plans to build 1,100 new housing units in an area of East Jerusalem called Gilo, which is not located in current Israeli territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has refused to renew the moratorium on the building of new settlements, saying that the Palestinians have refused to engage in direct negotiations.
It is a pretext they use again and again, Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post Monday in regard to Palestinian calls for a moratorium. I think a lot of people see it as a ruse to avoid direct negotiations.
The previous moratorium expired about a year ago, the Times notes, after Palestinians ceased peace talks after the 10-month old policy expired.
The plan comes as the Palestinians have repeatedly sought for statehood, which the United Nations is currently considering.
The Palestinians condemned the move. A statement from the Palestinian Authority noted that although Netanyahu called for no unilateral action, nothing could be more unilateral than a new round of settlement building in Palestinian territory.
Besides condemnation by the Palestinians, the move was condemned by the United States, United Nations and European Union.
We believe that this morning's announcement by the government of Israel approving the construction of [1,100] housing units in east Jerusalem is counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at a news conference. As you know, we have long urged both sides to avoid any kind of action which could undermine trust, including, and perhaps most particularly, in Jerusalem, any action that could be viewed as provocative by either side.
A statement from U.N. spokesman Robert Serry said, Today's decision by Israeli authorities to advance planning for a large number of new settlement units in East Jerusalem is very concerning, and ignores the Quartet's appeal of last Friday to the parties to refrain from provocative actions. This sends the wrong signal at a sensitive time.
The Times notes that the plan was being posted for public comment for 60 days, which is necessary before the plan receives approval.