Israel complicates Trump peace talks by plans for 800 east Jerusalem homes

The housing would be the first approved in east Jerusalem since Trump called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to curb settlement construction in February.

Published: 06th July 2017 10:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th July 2017 10:01 AM   |  A+A-

In this Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 file photo, Jewish settlers cook food in a basketball field in Amona, an unauthorized Israeli outpost in the West Bank, east of the Palestinian town of Ramallah. (AP)

By Associated Press

JERUSALEM: The Jerusalem municipality has said it plans to approve 800 new homes in Jewish-populated areas of east Jerusalem in the coming month, a move that could complicate President Donald Trump's attempt to restart peace talks.

The housing would be the first approved in east Jerusalem since Trump called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to curb settlement construction in February.

Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner arrived in Israel last month and sat down with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an effort to help kick-start long-dormant negotiations.

Kushner discussed potential actions to make progress toward "a genuine and lasting peace" between Israelis and Palestinians during his meeting with Netanyahu. But amid deep disagreements between the sides, he has not yet said how he plans to proceed.

After the Israeli announcement, the White House issued a statement saying: "President Trump has publicly and privately expressed his concerns regarding settlements, and the administration has made clear that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace. At the same time, the administration recognizes that past demands for a settlement freeze have not helped advance peace talks."

"As we have demonstrated in recent trips and conversations with the parties, the Trump Administration is committed to and focused on doing everything possible to advance the prospects of a historic, conflict-ending agreement between Israelis and Palestinians," the statement added.

City Hall said it will approve the 800 units in an upcoming planning committee meeting, along with 114 units in Arab neighborhoods.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement that construction in Jerusalem is "essential, important and will continue full force."

Israel captured east Jerusalem during the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it, but the international community doesn't recognize Israeli sovereignty. Palestinians hope to establish their capital of a future state in east Jerusalem.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel's move constituted "deliberate sabotage" of Trump's efforts to restart peace talks.

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