Israel accused of 'killing peace' with house plan
Palestinians accused Israel of doing everything it could to scupper peace talks in an angry response to the announcement of a fresh batch of homes for Israeli settlers in east Jerusalem.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, yesterday accused Israel of "killing" opportunities to revive peace talks, which have stalled over settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Israeli officials said the announcement of 238 housing units in the east Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Ramot and Pisgat Ze'ev was part of a wider housing plan.
They said the number of apartments planned for east Jerusalem had been cut following criticism from Washington. According to the Israeli officials, the US protest had been mild.
Yesterday's tender for new Jewish homes in east Jerusalem was the first since the visit by Joe Biden, the US vice-president, to Israel in March.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, said that in response to the settlement construction, Arab states might ask the UN to recognise the declaration of a Palestinian state next month.
"If Israel does not respect the settlements freeze," he said, "the Arab League will study some other option aside from the peace process."
Israel captured Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and has declared the city its capital. Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem were not included when Israel declared a 10-month moratorium on West Bank construction last November.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has refused to extend the moratorium, a move that prompted the Palestinians to suspend direct peace talks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)