PLO: Israel trying to "destroy" the peace talks with settlement expansion

Published March 19th, 2014 - 03:59 GMT

Israel’s municipality of Jerusalem on Wednesday approved building plans for 184 new homes in two Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A municipality spokeswoman told Reuters that the local planning committee had voted to approve requests put forward by private contractors to build new homes in the Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev settlements.

The move drew anger and frustration from Palestinians, who continually argue that Israel’s continued settlement expansion on occupied territory prove it is not taking the peace talks seriously.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, on Wednesday accused Israel of purposely trying to sabotage the U.S.-led peace talks, Reuters reported. The issue of settlements and occupied Palestinian land has proved a major stumbling bloc in the peace talks, which restarted last summer.

"It is has become evident that Israel has done everything possible to destroy the ongoing negotiations and to provoke violence and extremism throughout the region," Ashrawi said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Under the new plans, 144 homes for Jewish settlers would be built in Har Homa and 40 dwellings in Pisgat Zeev, Reuters reported.

Israel regards the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa as territory that would stay under Tel Aviv’s control under any future peace deal with the Palestinians. Both settlements were annexed by Israel during the 1967 war.

However, this annexation has never been formally recognized by the international community. Palestinians are seeking to establish an independent state with land in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They, the international community and human rights groups regard Israeli settlements as illegal and argue that their continuing existence and expansion could jeopardize their dreams of a viable state.

According to Reuters, more than 500,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are home to about 2.8 million Palestinians.

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