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Palestinians angry over Israel's plans for construction

Negotiator accuses Israel of sabotaging efforts to revive "roadmap" for peace

Palestinians angry over Israel's plans for construction

Israel has plans to build an additional 740 apartments in disputed east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 2008, a Cabinet minister said yesterday, enraging Palestinians who say such construction undermines nascent peace talks.
The Construction Ministry's proposed budget for 2008 includes 500 apartments for the Har Homa neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Plans to build more than 300 apartments in that same neighborhood, announced earlier this month, upset the first round of negotiations Israel and the Palestinians conducted in seven years.
An additional 240 apartments are planned for construction in Maaleh Adumim just outside Jerusalem, one of Israel's biggest West Bank settlements, according to the ministry's budget. Israel intends to hold on to Maaleh Adumim, home to more than 30,000 settlers, in any final peace deal with the Palestinians.
Cabinet Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Rafi Eitan told Army Radio that Israel never promised to halt construction within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, whose eastern sector Israel annexed in 1967 after capturing it in the 1967 Mideast war.
The international community never recognized that annexation, but Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhoods - home to 180,000 people - are expected to remain in Israeli hands under any final peace settlement.
"Har Homa is an integral, organic part of Jerusalem," Eitan said. "No promise was ever given to anyone that we wouldn't continue to build in Har Homa, because it's within the municipal borders of Jerusalem.
Maaleh Adumim, Eitan added, "is an integral part of Jerusalem in any peace accord."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of sabotaging efforts to renew peacemaking and bring it to an accord.
"This is a totally destructive policy," Erekat said. "Every day we hear a new settlement expansion plan. This cannot be tolerated."
Under the recently revived "road map" peace plan, Israel committed to freeze all settlement construction. It has insisted that construction in east Jerusalem is not covered by the internationally backed road map plan, and has claimed the right to continue building in major settlement blocs to account for natural growth of the existing population.
Built on a hilltop known to Palestinians as Jebel Abu Ghneim, Har Homa is part of a network of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that ring Palestinian areas. Palestinians charge the Israeli goal is to cut Arab neighborhoods off from each other and stand physically in the way of making east Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.
Reports earlier this month that Israel planned to build 307 apartments in Har Homa drew rare U.S. criticism, with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying the construction would "not help build confidence" for peace talks.


Updated : 2021-04-13 15:21 GMT+08:00