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Palestinian officials condemn Israel settlement plans

Nov. 6, 2012 8:15 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 7, 2012 6:18 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi on Tuesday condemned reported plans for Israel to construct new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem and in Ariel in the West Bank.

The Israel Land Administration on Monday published notices inviting bids from contractors to build on plots in Ramot and Pisgat Zeev, urban settlements that Israel has declared part of Jerusalem.

The plans call for the building of 607 new homes in Pisgat Zeev and 606 in Ramot. Tens of thousands of Israelis already live in the two areas.

"Such organized efforts to construct more units in the illegal settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramot, and Ariel are a deliberate attempt to breach international law and to destroy all chances for peace," Ashrawi said in a statement.

"With today’s announcement, it is obvious that such actions are in response to our decision to go to the United Nations, which serves to rescue the failed peace process and end the illegal occupation.

"As such, this sends a clear message to both the international community and to the Palestinians that Israel is more committed to annexing Palestinian land than committing to any peace resolution with the Palestinian people."

The Israeli NGO Peace Now said Tuesday that an additional tender for the construction of 72 homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel was reissued on Monday after a previous notice failed to attract winning bidders.

Ashrawi urged the international community to intervene.

“We call on the European Union, the Quartet and other members of the international community to hold Israel accountable, demand that it cease all settlement activities and actions that defy international law and support our peaceful diplomatic efforts to achieve an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital."

Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of Fatah's central committee, also slammed the announcement.

"For those who still wonder if there is an Israeli partner for peace, the answer has been given," Shtayyeh said in a separate statement.

"This is all Netanyahu and Lieberman have to offer: The destruction of the two-state solution and the imposition of an Apartheid regime."

The Israeli decision to expand settlements in the occupied territories is another reason why the Palestinians must pursue a UN bid, he added.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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