JERUSALEM: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki on Thursday denounced Israeli plans to build hundreds of new settler homes in east Jerusalem, threatening to pursue international legal action in response.
Israel announced on Wednesday it would build 1,500 new settler homes in the mostly Arab sector of Jerusalem, immediately after the Jewish state released 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in line with its commitments to US-backed peace talks. “The Foreign Ministry is seriously looking at turning immediately to international courts and organizations, and filing the necessary complaints in order to stop settlement building,” Malki said. He condemned “plans approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for settlement building, and Netanyahu’s attempts to link the settlement issue with the prisoners issue.”
PLO chiefs convened later on Thursday in Ramallah, in a session chaired by president Mahmud Abbas.
“The Palestinian leadership will take a number of steps in the next few days to face the settlement offensive,” the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive said after the meeting.
A senior Palestinian official denied reports that Palestinian negotiators would resign in protest at the latest Israeli move.
Plans to build new settler homes in east Jerusalem came to light almost immediately after Israel began freeing 21 prisoners to the West Bank and another five to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Israel says it never promised to freeze settlement during talks.
“Israel is honoring all the understandings reached prior to the opening of negotiations with the Palestinians,” a senior official told AFP.
“It was understood to all sides to the negotiations, it was clear from the beginning, that Israel was not taking upon itself any limitations in building or planning. “Israel sees continuation of negotiation with the Palestinians as important.”