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Palestinians Say New E. Jerusalem Building Threatens Talks

Palestinian officials said Israel’s announcement of 240 new units in eastern Jerusalem was a further blow to renewed peace talks.

Israel’s housing ministry announced Friday that among 3,500 tenders throughout Israel, 240 were approved for units in Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev, in Jerusalem’s north, Ha’aretz reported.

“The Netanyahu government is determined to thwart any chance of resuming direct negotiations,” Sa’eb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator said.

The announcement was the first major building start in eastern Jerusalem since an announcement in March of plans for 1,600 units during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden precipitated months of tensions between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations.

Israel has said it cannot and will not freeze building anywhere in Jerusalem.

The direct talks, launched under U.S. auspices on Sept. 2, came to a halt less than a month later after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month partial freeze he had imposed on West Bank settlement building as a means to entice Palestinians to the talks.

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