AFP
Last updated: 3 December, 2013

Israel clears West Bank land for settler homes

Israel has bulldozed land slated for settler homes in the West Bank, a local official said Tuesday, ahead of a visit by the top US diplomat to boost peace talks.

“The occupation (Israeli) authorities informed us, through notifications to landowners, that new settler homes would be built in the village of Al-Mazraa al-Qabaliya,” Abdallah Lawadeh told AFP.

The 255 homes are among some 800 slated for construction by Israel since October.

Palestinian landowners were given two months to “present objections to the decision,” Lawadeh said, but “the authorities did not wait for those to be filed, already bulldozing the land and setting up temporary housing for Israelis,” he said.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the army had approved on November 7 the construction of the 255 units in the Israeli settlement Nahlei Tal.

“But it’s only a first step, and objections can be submitted within 60 days,” Lior Amihai, a spokesman for the group, told AFP.

The units are among some 800 settlement homes approved by Israel in October, when it released 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners as part of an agreement to relaunch US-brokered peace talks.

Israeli officials have said the settlement announcements are part of understandings reached with the Palestinians in order to relaunch the talks, but the Palestinians have adamantly denied this, condemning all settlement construction.

The Palestinians have long viewed the construction of Jewish settlements on land they see as part of their future state as among the biggest obstacles to resolving the decades-old conflict.

The reported bulldozing came a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in Israel on a visit to boost the negotiations, which are in deadlock over the settlement issue.

Palestinian negotiators resigned over settlement building last month, but president Mahmud Abbas has not yet accepted their resignation.

The Palestinians have threatened to sue Israel through international courts should there be a failure in peace talks, which have been given a nine-month deadline — until around April — to reach an agreement.