Israel issues tenders for more settler homes ahead of Kerry visit

JERUSALEM Sun Nov 3, 2013 11:30am EST

Palestinian labourers work on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit, near Bethlehem August 11, 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Palestinian labourers work on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit, near Bethlehem August 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel issued tenders for construction of more than 1,700 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, moving ahead with projects opposed by the United States and others ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The plots being advertised are in nine settlements in areas Israel says it intends to keep in any peace deal with the Palestinians. They are part of the 3,500 settler homes whose planned construction Israel announced on Wednesday when it released 26 Palestinian prisoners, a government official said.

"The tender bidding process should take between two to three months and contractors could begin to build after about a year," a Housing Ministry spokesman said about the tenders for 1,729 dwellings published on a government website.

Kerry, who helped revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in July after a three-year break, is now in Cairo on a Middle East visit that will also bring him to Israel and the West Bank.

His meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders are likely to focus on the peace talks, which have shown little sign of progress, and Iran's nuclear program.

On Wednesday, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, described the construction plans as "destructive for the peace process".

Palestinians, who seek a state of their own in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, fear settlements on land Israel captured in a 1967 war could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Some 500,000 Jews and about 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and most countries consider Israeli settlements illegal. Israel cites historical and Biblical links to the two areas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to move forward with the projects was widely seen as an attempt to placate hardliners in his government angered by the release of Palestinian inmates convicted of killing Israelis.

Freedom for the men, regarded by Palestinians as heroes in their fight for statehood, was part of U.S.-brokered understandings that led to the revival of the peace talks.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ori Lewis; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Comments (13)
stehling wrote:
Israel’s hegemonic aims in the Middle East, and indeed worldwide, are a provocation to a nuclear conflict that will make Syria look like a local confrontation between rival street gangs.

The government of Likud leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, is apparently now able to strike anywhere with complete impunity using US supplied weaponry. But the burning question that requires an answer is why did Angela Merkel supply a fleet of German built, Dolphin Class submarines that are now assumed to be patrolling the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Gulf, having apparently been secretly modified to being nuclear-armed with ICBM cruise missiles?

Israel already controls the lives of five million Muslim Arabs in the occupied territories and continues to treat the UN with contempt as it extends its illegal settlement of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as the US looks on impotently at the military pretensions of its creature state that is arguably now its political master in the region.

These illegal settlements risk becoming permanent, raising profound questions about the validity of Israel’s claimed democracy and the way the country is viewed abroad as an expansionist military state, especially in Europe.

Whilst in the US, President Obama is apparently unable to take any foreign policy decision without prior approval from AIPAC, the unelected, privately financed, powerful, political lobby group in Washington that represents exclusively the interests of the Israeli government.

That this situation is dangerously detrimental to democracy and world peace, is seen as such within an international community that is increasingly concerned by the hijacking of America’s government by an agent for a foreign state that wields undue influence over the composition of the US Congress.

Nov 03, 2013 12:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Very very sad, and disconcerting actions of Israel backed by US. And we wonder why there is so much resentment towards the USA. Maybe a new generation will fix this as the youth everywhere is our future.

Nov 03, 2013 1:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
iccek wrote:
do Americans really wish to support criminals from Israel?

Nov 03, 2013 2:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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