Israel Announces Contentious Jerusalem Construction Ahead of Peace Talks Meet

Housing Ministry publishes tender for 300 housing units beyond the Green Line hours before Jordan-mediated session between Netanyahu envoy, PA negotiator.

The Housing Ministry and Israel Lands Administration published on Tuesday three new tenders for construction of 300 housing units beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem, just hours before Israeli and Palestinian envoys are due to meet for the first time in over a year to discuss the renewal of peace talks.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy for peace process, Yitzhak Molcho, is expected to discuss security arrangements and border issues with chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat, with the participation of Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who will mediate between the parties.

Palestinian sources stressed that they have no expectation of a diplomatic breakthrough in the short term, both because of the composition of the Israeli government and because of the U.S. presidential election campaign that is starting to get under way.

neighborhood of Har Homa

The sources indicated they believed that there will be no progress in peace negotiations until after the American election in November.

The 300 new homes announced on Tuesday are part of 500 housing units that the Housing Ministry has already announced two weeks ago, with 47 units due to be built in Pisgat Ze'ev, and 247 apartments to be built in Har Homa. Approximately130 of those units will serve a retirement home.

When the new housing units were initially announced two weeks ago, Housing Minister Ariel Atias said that "it is clear that in any future agreement, these neighborhoods will stay under Israel's sovereignty."

"During the term of [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert tenders were published for thousands of housing units in Jerusalem an no one said a thing. We can't both not talk and not build, so as part of these balances we're attending to the housing shortage in these areas as well," Atias added.

Responding to the newly released tenders, the left-leaning NGO Ir Amim said that the announcement of new housing units is meant to send a message ahead of the upcoming Erekat-Molcho meeting.

"By releasing the tender at this time, Israel is slapping the face of [Jordan's] King Abdullah and the entire international community, morbidly injuring the already low chances of peace talks to be renewed," an Ir Amim statement said.