JERUSALEM, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- The United States is pressuring Israeli officials not to announce the construction of new West Bank settlements following the upcoming release of more Palestinian prisoners on Dec. 29.
According to a report by local Ha'aretz daily, an Israeli senior official told the newspaper that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who had visited the region twice in the past month, urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act with restraint and not to undermine the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The report adds that U.S. officials fear Palestinians will not tolerate more housing units in the settlements and will decide to completely withdraw from the negotiations.
The Israeli government approved in July the release of 109 prisoners locked up prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords as a gesture of goodwill to the Palestinians amid the renewal of the peace talks.
Two groups of prisoners have been released thus far, in August and in October. However, their release was followed by announcements from the Israeli government of its plans to erect thousands of construction units in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem.
These announcements had put a damper on Israeli-Palestinian talks and nearly lead to their dissolution.
However, according to a column by former minister and peace advocate Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Netanyahu told Kerry Israel plans to announce 2,000 more housing units near the Dec. 29 release.
Kerry is trying to salve the talks, which resumed last July after a three-year halt after by Israel continued to construct settlements in the West Bank.
The European Union is also trying to invigorate the peace talks and said on Monday that it will hold Israel accountable if the peace talks fail, and, on the other hand, will compile a package of benefits if both sides progress and reach an agreement.
Final status peace deal within reach between Israel, Palestinian: Kerry
JERUSALEM, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that a final status peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is within reach by April of 2014, Ha'aretz newspaper reported.
Israel would release more Palestinian prisoners in two weeks as planned, Kerry said. "We're not talking at this point about any shifts (in the scheduled deadline) and the next tranche of prisoners is due to be released on December 29 and it will take place then." Full story