Palestinian minister: No to new settlement units

Dec. 26, 2013 at 6:39 AM   |   0 comments

JERUSALEM, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- A Palestinian minister said plans by Israel to tie the release of Palestinian prisoners to new settlement building "scuttles the possibility of moving forward."

Issa Karake, the Palestinian Authority minister of prisoner affairs, told the Hebrew daily Ma'ariv Thursday new settlement units are "unacceptable."

"Unlike the release of prisoners, which advances peace talks and creates hope that a peace agreement can be reached, the building of settlements scuttles the possibility of moving forward."

Israel's actions are not conducive to future talks, he said. Karake said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turned down a White House request to postpone Sunday's prisoner release.

Karake's comments came amid plans by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to announce new construction in the West Bank after the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners Sunday.

Settlement construction announcements accompanied the first and second prisoner releases.

Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners convicted of crimes before the 1993 Oslo Accords during the allotted nine-month negotiating period.

Netanyahu will make next week's announcement despite strong U.S. and EU warnings not to, the officials told Israel's Channel 10.

U.S. and EU officials fear the plans could cause Israeli-Palestinian talks to collapse.

Israeli officials would not say where the planned apartments would be built or how many units would be involved.

Channel 10 said the number of planned new homes would be 1,000 to 2,000.

Israel's Channel 2 said Netanyahu's announcement would be for "massive construction."

An Israeli government official insisted the construction does not violate the agreement that led to the resumption of peace talks and said Israel was "strictly abiding by that agreement," the Jerusalem Post said.

The Obama administration, which is brokering the talks, had no immediate comment on the report.

Under U.S. pressure, the Palestinians agreed during the summer to resume talks in a nine-month process that started in July to come to a final-status agreement by March on a two-state solution that envisages an independent Palestine alongside Israel.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Wednesday he thought it was an Israeli "right to build, and certainly according to the understandings and agreements we have with the Americans," the Jerusalem Post reported.

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