The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily overruled a government decision to retroactively approve a number of illegal homes in the West Bank and to allow new construction in the settlement of Nokdim, Army Radio reported.
The court stated that the ownership of the land on which the buildings were built is disputed and called to freeze construction until a further hearing on the matter takes place.
Earlier Thursday, Army Radio reported that the government announced its intentions to allow construction of 40 additional housing units in the Etzion Bloc settlement, southeast of Jerusalem.
The government decision came in response to a petition filed by residents of a Palestinian village near Nokdim, who requested that the court order the destruction of 14 illegally constructed houses in the settlement.
The Palestinian villagers’ attorney, Guy Sensar, protested the government’s stance, claiming that the decision was a “slap in the face” of political negotiations and the peace process.
The government announcement came just hours before the start of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s fifth visit to Israel in three months. The announcement of new permits, though temporarily overruled by the court, threatened to cast a cloud over the visit and could complicate Kerry’s attempts to restart peace talks.
The US State Department called Israel’s continued settlement construction “unproductive” and “unhelpful” to US efforts to bring the sides back to the negotiating table, a department official told Bloomberg News on condition of anonymity. According to the report, the official said the latest move was unhelpful “as the US urges all parties to help create a climate for peace.”
Earlier in the day, Israel announced plans to build 69 new homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.
In an interview with Army Radio, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said he expects the United States not to interfere in Israel’s legal proceedings, just as Israel does not intervene in those held in the US.
“The timing of our response to the Supreme Court does not depend on one visit or another,” he claimed.