The Palestinian Authority and the US on Thursday condemned Israel’s decision to advance plans to build 296 homes in the West Bank Beit El settlement, warning that it could sabotage American efforts to revive the frozen peace talks.
“We see this decision as a message to the US Administration and a blow to the peace process,” said PA presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rdaineh.
“The Israeli government is aiming at dragging the area toward violence instead of peace and stability by approving such plans. This shows that the Israeli government is not interested in peace in the region,” Abu Rdaineh said.
US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters at the daily briefing in Washington, that US President Barack Obama has consistently warned that settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace.
“That is something we have said many times,” he said.
The Palestinians and the US spoke one day after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had approved for deposit construction plans for the 296 homes, with the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria.
His signature allows the plans to advance bureaucratically, but does not guarantee that they will receive final authorization to be built.
The Civil Administration must now advertise the plans in a newspaper, after which begins a 60-day period for the public to register objections, before the council authorized the plans from a technical perspective.
Any objections, would prolong that state.
Once all the technical approvals are finished, according to the Civil Administration, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will need to sign off on the documents before construction can begin.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to build the homes in June, as part of a deal reached with 33 families living in the Ulpana outpost located at the outskirts of the settlement, whose homes were slated for demolition as the result of a High Court of Justice ruling.
The settlers agreed to leave their homes without physical resistance, in exchange for a pledge by government officials to build 296 new homes.
News that the plans had been deposited came amidst a flurry of renewed diplomatic activity to re-start direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Justice Minister Tzipi LIvni told Army Radio on Thursday she heard plans for the Beit El homes had been deposited, immediately after leaving her meeting in Rome with US Secretary of State John Kerry about renewing the peace process.
The project is not a new one, and therefore there is no need for “drama,” she said.
“We immediately updated the Americans, even before they asked,” she said. “They listened, they heard us, and as now, they have not responded,” she added.
News of the project’s advancement also comes amidst a claim by settlers that Netanyahu has frozen new construction tenders for public housing projects in four settlements; Efrat, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev and Karnei Shomron.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said that freezing tenders for government-funded projects in the settlements has a very limited impact on West Bank settlement activity.
Much of the construction is private and does not require tenders, she said.
There are many settlement-building projects in the pipeline, which have all their approvals, she added.
Yigal DelMonti, a spokesman for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said he didn’t understand why every bureaucratic step of the building process made headlines.
The project, he said, had already been announced, and approvals had not been given. “There is nothing new here,” he added.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/PA-condemns-plans-for-296-settler-homes-in-Beit-El-312654