Israel releases tenders for 1,213 new settlement homes


The Israeli housing ministry published tenders for the construction of 1,213 new homes in East Jerusalem and West Bank beyond the 1967 lines, dealing a fresh blow to the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Among the tenders are 606 dwellings in Ramot and 607 housing units in Pisgat Ze-ev, urban settlements that Israel has declared part of Jerusalem.
A tender was also announced for construction bids on 72 units in the controversial area of Ariel in the northern West Bank.
Two weeks ago, the housing and construction ministry announced the marketing of 700 housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev, a controversial area in northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood across the 1967 lines, and 92 units will be marketed in Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement east of Jerusalem.
Hagit Ofran of NGO Peace Now, which monitors West Bank settlement construction, criticized the move, saying that it headed off a return to talks.
“This is the true answer of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu to (Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas,” Ofran said.
“Chairman Abbas declared again his strong commitment to the two- state solution, and Netanyahu replied with thousands of new units in settlements. It seems like Netanyahu is afraid of the new administration that is being elected today in the U.S., and has chosen the day of elections to publish the tenders so that there will be the least public attention to his acts,” she said.
Jerusalem municipal officials did not respond to calls or a written request for response by press time.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator said that Israel is working to undermine the peace process by continuing the building of new settlements in East Jerusalem.
“This is a declaration to destroy what was left of the peace process completely and finally,” said Erekat.
In a interview with Israeli television channel 2 on Friday, Abbas said the Palestinians wanted peace based on the two-state solution and were looking for a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel, not an armed one.
Netanyahu said Sunday in response to Abbas that he is willing to resume peace negotiations with Abbas without any preconditions. In the past the PNA demanded Israel halt the settlement construction as a term to continue the talks.
Israeli rightists contended that Abbas’ remarks were ” interference” in the run-up of the Israeli national elections on Jan. 22 and a ploy to convince voters to support left-of-center parties.
However, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert celebrated Abbas’ comments, with Peres calling Abbas a “real partner for peace.”
The building of settlements in the West Bank caused peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to break down in 2010.
The Palestinians and international community consider all settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal because they are built on territories Israel occupied during the 1967 Six Day War.