JERUSALEM, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Jerusalem Municipality had approved the construction of 942 new housing units in Jewish settlements located in east Jerusalem, Israeli media reported Tuesday.
The authorization comes only a day before Israel and the Palestinians meet in Jerusalem for a second round of U.S.-brokered direct peace talks, nearly three years after previous talks broke down on the settlement issue.
A municipal official told the Times of Israel website: "We will continue issuing tenders for construction in Jerusalem and the settlements."
The current plan to expand the neighborhood of Gilo, in southeast Jerusalem, will push it further toward the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, to the ire of Palestinians and the international community.
The plan, which was first authorized in December 2012, is one of the largest building projects to take place in Jerusalem.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians resumed in Washington on July 30, with negotiators seeking to agree on the outlines of resuming direct talks.
The U.S. State Department said after that first meeting that it was estimated it would take nine months to reach a deal. After Wednesday's second round of talks, the two sides are set to meet again in the West Bank city of Jericho.
Previous talks broke off in 2010 over a dispute on Jewish settlement activities. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demanded Israel reinstate the freeze on the settlement construction from 2009-2010, which was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On the other hand, Netanyahu demanded Abbas recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, which was also rejected by Abbas.
On Sunday, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel permitted the construction of 1,200 new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, jeopardizing the fate of direct talks.
In response, the U.S. State Department issued a statement Monday, in which it did "not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity."
For his part, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has recently exerted efforts to convince the two sides to go back to the negotiation table, warned Netanyahu that, without making significant progress in talks with the Palestinians, Israel would face a boycott and an international de-legitimization campaign, the U.S.-based Bloomberg magazine reported Tuesday.
Israel approves 942 housing units in east Jerusalem, a day before peace talks
JERUSALEM, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Jerusalem Municipality approved the construction of 942 new housing units in Jewish settlements located in east Jerusalem, Israeli media reported Tuesday.
"We will continue issuing tenders for construction in Jerusalem and the settlements," a municipal official told the Times of Israel website. Full story
Palestinians committed to peace with Israel through talks: Abbas
RAMALLAH/GAZA, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday the Palestinians are committed to the Middle East peace process with Israel through talks, although some say he should not join the second round of negotiations slated for Wednesday.
Abbas said so when meeting in Ramallah German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. According to state-run Wafa News Agency, Abbas said the Palestinians are committed to achieve a just and comprehensive peace through direct talks with Israel. Full story