Israel pursued plans for nearly 14,000 new homes for settlers during now-suspended peace negotiations with the Palestinians, an Israeli watchdog group said yesterday as the original deadline for a deal expired.
In a statement on the end of the nine-month negotiating period, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian delegate to the US-sponsored talks, cited settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as a main reason for their failure.
Peace Now, which monitors and opposes Israeli settlement of land Palestinians seek for a state, said Israel finalised 4,868 home construction tenders in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since the talks began in July - effectively a four-fold increase compared with recent years.
In a new report that coincided with the passing of yesterday's target date for a peace accord, the group also said Israeli authorities had processed plans, in various stages of approval, for another 8,983 settler homes while the negotiations were under way. Israeli announcements, during the talks, of some of the projects stoked Palestinian anger, which was amplified by Erekat yesterday. "Everything Israel did during the past nine months was aimed at sabotaging Palestinian and international efforts to achieve the two-state solution," he said.
"To build settlements in occupied land, kill Palestinians and demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes is certainly not the behaviour of a government that wants to end occupation, but of a government that wants to turn occupation into annexation."
In a West Bank village yesterday, Israeli forces demolished several structures, including a mosque, which the military said were built without an Israeli permit in a live-fire training zone. Palestinians says such permits are almost impossible to obtain
Israel suspended the peace talks last Thursday, a day after West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reached a unity agreement with one its most bitter enemies, the Islamist Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip.