"Blind provocation": Israel okays 69 east Jerusalem settlements hours before Kerry visit
Labourers work on the construction of home in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa in Israeli annexed Arab East Jerusalem (file AFP)
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An Israeli planning committee on Wednesday granted final approval for the construction of 69 occupied east Jerusalem colony homes, an official said, on the eve of a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The municipal committee has today given its final approval for the construction of 69 homes in Har Homa in east Jerusalem,” councillor Meir Margalit told AFP.
The approval was granted by the municipal planning committee just hours before Kerry touched down in Amman on his fifth visit to the region since February as he steps up efforts to draw Israel and the Palestinians back into direct negotiations.
“This a blind provocation against Kerry,” said Margalit, who is a member of the left-wing Meretz party.
“It proves just how much the government of Bibi [Benjamin] Netanyahu wants peace,” he retorted, using the nickname of the Israeli prime minister.
Har Homa is a colony neighbourhood located in the southern sector of Arab east Jerusalem which was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War then annexed, in a move not recognised by the international community.
The contentious decision was likely to set tempers flaring a day before Kerry travels to Jerusalem for talks with Netanyahu.
He was expected to meet with Abbas in Amman tomorrow.
Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli daily, Maariv, revealed details about the US plan to jumpstart the peace process, claiming that the Israelis will release Palestinian prisoners held before the signing of the Oslo Accords, and freeze construction of Jews-only colonies outside the major colony blocks in return for a Palestinian concession on the 1967 border.
The paper reported that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has positively responded to demands by Kerry to offer the Palestinians goodwill gestures.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has, on the other hand, agreed to give up the Palestinian demand that the peace talks with Israel should be based on the 1967 border, according to the paper.
Maariv said that Kerry will publicly present the two leaders, Netanyahu and Abu Mazen, as victorious as their demands have been met in a way which satisfies their nations.
The two leaders will appear to have not withdrawn their conditions and to have got all they asked for. Releasing Palestinian prisoners, halting colony construction outside the colony blocks and enhancing economic conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank are all things which Netanyahu accepts and believes in, said the daily.
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