merkel - Emil Salman - October 2 2011
Chancellor Angela Merkel meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in January. Photo by Emil Salman
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Israel must refrain from constructing new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a top aide of German Chancellor Angela Merkal said on Monday, following Israel's announcement of over 1,000 new housing units beyond the Green Line.

Merkel spokesperson Georg Streiter said that Israel's recent announcement that it would seek contractors to build apartments in both areas conveys "a devastating message with regard to the current efforts to resume peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians."

He said Germany "urgently calls on the Israeli government to refrain from inviting bids for the apartments."

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been frozen for three years, in part because of continued Israeli settlement construction in the territories captured by Israel in 1967 and still claimed by the Palestinians.

On Sunday, the Housing Ministry published tenders for 1,028 homes to be built in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, part of a plan to build 6,000 housing units throughout Israel.

According to a statement by the ministry, 500 homes will be built in Har Homa in south Jerusalem, on land occupied during the 1967 Six Day War; 348 in the West Bank settlement of Betar Illit; and 180 in Givat Ze'ev, which lies between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

This apparently marks another step taken by the Israeli government to punish the Palestinians for their successful effort to join UNESCO in October.

The ministry estimates that construction will start at most of the sites within a year.

Previous decisions by Israel to construct homes on land captured during the Six Day War have aroused anger among Palestinians, and been heavily criticized by the international community.

In September, 1,100 new housing units were approved in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, prompting condemnation from around the world, including the United States and European Union.