Israel has frozen new building in settlements: minister

A protester waves a Palestinian flag in front of the Jewish settlement of Ofra during clashes near the West Bank village of Deir Jarir near Ramallah April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman
A protester waves a Palestinian flag in front of the Jewish settlement of Ofra during clashes near the West Bank village of Deir Jarir near Ramallah April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman

Israel has frozen nearly all housing starts in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Housing Minister Uri Ariel said today, in an apparent bid to help U.S. efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

The step, confirmed several weeks ago by the Israel’s anti-settlement Peace Now movement, has had no impact on construction already under way in settlements – projects that have raised Palestinian concern and drawn international condemnation.

Settlement construction on land the Palestinians want for a state was the main reason for the breakdown of U.S.-sponsored negotiations in 2010 and has been cited as a stumbling block to Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to restart talks.

“I’ll give you the facts: in Jerusalem, since the beginning of the year, there have been no tenders except for one … and the same goes for Judea and Samaria,” Ariel, using the Biblical names for the Israeli-occupied West Bank, told Army Radio.

Ariel, a member of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, said he believed the step was temporary and that he was working to end it.

The Palestinians rejected Ariel’s remarks.

“While such statements are made to placate Secretary Kerry, the fact remains that settlement activity has continued unabated under successive Netanyahu governments,” the Palestine Liberation Organisation said in a statement.

Last week, officials said Israel was pressing on with plans for the construction of more than 1,000 new homes in two West Bank settlements.

Those proposals have not reached the stage where bids are sought from contractors, a process entailing public announcements that could clash with Kerry’s diplomatic drive.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly confirmed housing starts have been suspended. But he said last week Israel had to be “smart about” where it built and hinted it was ready to limit expansion to settlement clusters it intends to keep in any future land-for-peace deal.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has so far linked a resumption of peace talks to a complete freeze of settlement building, which Palestinians see as establishing facts on the ground that deny them land they need for a viable state.

Most countries consider settlements illegal under international law. Israel, which cites Biblical and historical links to the West Bank and Jerusalem, disputes that and says the settlement issue should be worked out in negotiations.

Some 500,000 Israelis have settled in the two areas, which Israel captured along with the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. About 2.5 million Palestinians live there.

Since taking office in February, Kerry has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories four times to try to get both sides to renew negotiations, so far with little success.

 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

'Five Star': A coming-of-age story about Brooklyn's gang…

'Five Star' tells a coming-of-age story about Brooklyn's gang culture at the Tribeca Film Festival.

National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

Local

NYPD detective shoots partner: DA

A New York City Police detective was arrested early Thursday and charged with driving under the influence while on the clock.

Local

Judge strikes down NY limits on donations to…

A federal judge on Thursday reluctantly struck down New York's limits on donations to independent political action committees as unconstitutional, potentially ushering in a new…

Music

Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

Music

M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

NHL

Rangers unlikely to change lineup, Steve Mason in…

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't say much, but don't expect any lineup changes.

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

NBA

Nets excited for Brooklyn fans to bring the…

Kevin Garnett has definitely used profanity while trash talking or in practices, but never to describe an entire borough.

NHL

Rangers turn up shot blocking in Game 3…

Game 3 of the Rangers-Flyers opneing round series was not a return to John Tortorella hockey.

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.

Style

MAC & Proenza Schouler collection unveiled

MAC Cosmetics is releasing a new collection with Proenza Schouler.