The Israeli Interior Ministry has approved the construction of 900 housing units, four or five bedrooms each, on annexed Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem. Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said any settlement deal with the U.S. would not include Jerusalem.

It’s another setback for the Obama administration, which has tried to revive the peace process while having to deal with a conservative, expansionist Israeli government and a divided and discredited Palestinian Authority.

The White House has been trying for a full stoppage of new settlement construction, a basic precondition of restarting negotiations, but Netanyahu’s government has only been willing to agree to a partial freeze, excluding Jerusalem and the “natural growth” of existing settlements. — PZS


Settlements on occupied territory are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Israeli media reported earlier that the government had rejected a request from Washington to freeze the construction work at Gilo.

US President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is said to have made the request to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in London on Monday.

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