Last updated: 19 December, 2011

Germany urges Israel to refrain from settlement tenders

Germany urged Israel Monday to refrain from publishing tenders for the building of new settlement housing in east Jerusalem and the West Bank saying it sent a “devastating message” for peace efforts.

“The Israeli government must be aware that the continuous announcements of new settlements convey a devastating message with a view to the current efforts and resumption of peace negotiations,” a government spokesman said.

“We strongly urge the Israeli government to refrain from inviting tenders for housing units,” Georg Streiter told a news conference.

He said such a move could contribute towards the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians.

The remarks followed sharp criticism from Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September in which she said she had “absolutely no understanding” for the approval of Israeli plans to expand a settlement in Gilo, in east Jerusalem.

Merkel told Netanyahu that the Gilo development “raised doubt whether the Israeli government has an interest in the start of serious negotiations” with the Palestinians, according to her spokesman.

Israel’s housing and construction ministry said Sunday it would publish tenders for the construction of more than 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The tenders are part of a package of nearly 6,000 housing units which are to be built across Israel and the West Bank, the ministry said, in a step which was angrily denounced by the Palestinians.