Palestinian official warns settlement building could kill talks

Senior PLO member Yasser Abed Rabbo says recent announcements of more construction go against US pledges

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Yasser Abed Rabbo (photo credit: Issam Rimawi / FLASH90)
Yasser Abed Rabbo (photo credit: Issam Rimawi / FLASH90)

A senior Palestinian official warned that Israel’s recent move to approve thousands of new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem could imperil the future of newly restarted peace talks.

“Settlement expansion goes against the US administration’s pledges and threatens to cause the negotiations’ collapse,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told AFP on Tuesday. “This settlement expansion is unprecedented. It threatens to make talks fail even before they’ve started.”

On Sunday, the Housing Ministry announced it had approved the construction of 1,200 apartments in settlement blocs and Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Green Line. A day later, news emerged that the state had secretly approved an additional 900 new housing units to be built near Gilo in East Jerusalem, extending the neighborhood toward a Palestinian area. The Housing Ministry later confirmed that additional permits for housing construction had indeed been issued.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the US government viewed the settlements as illegitimate. He added that criticism on the Palestinian side shows the need to get negotiations going quickly.

“I think that what this underscores, actually, is the importance of getting to the table and getting to the table quickly and resolving the questions with respect to settlements, which are best resolved by solving the problems of security and borders,” Kerry said from Colombia, where he is visiting. “Once you have security and borders solved, you have resolved the question of settlements.”

Kerry urged both parties not to react adversely or to provoke the other side, but to move forward quietly, carefully and deliberately to negotiate the major issues.

“With the negotiation of major issues, these kind of hotpoint issues … are eliminated as the kind of flashpoints that they may be viewed today,” he said.

According to Bloomberg journalist Jeffery Goldberg, Kerry recently warned Netanyahu that if the current peace talks fail, Israel could face an international delegitimization campaign “on steroids.”

Talks between Israelis and Palestinians are scheduled to restart on Wednesday.

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