Skip to main content

Israeli PM rejects plans to build more settlements

By Tom Watkins, Michael Schwartz and Kareem Khadder, CNN
updated 8:33 AM EST, Wed November 13, 2013
Israel's controversial separation barrier surrounds the Ras Khamis neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, on November 12, 2013.
Israel's controversial separation barrier surrounds the Ras Khamis neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, on November 12, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israel cancels plans for thousands more settlements
  • PM Netanyahu: "This is a meaningless step - legally and in practice"
  • 23,000 settlement homes were planned for East Jerusalem, West Bank

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel canceled controversial plans to construct thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank, hours after the announcement sparked strong criticism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel to reconsider long-term plans to build more than 20,000 units, according to a press release from Netanyahu's office.

"This step does not contribute to settlement," the statement said. "On the contrary, there is damage here for settlement."

"This is a meaningless step -- legally and in practice -- and an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran. At this time, the attention of the international community must not be diverted from the main effort -- preventing Iran from receiving an agreement that will allow it to continue its military nuclear program. As a member of the government, action must be coordinated and have the benefit of forethought."

Kerry prods Israel, Palestinians on peace
Palestinian prisoners released
Israel: We've found tunnel from Gaza

Ariel said he would accede to Netanyahu's request, according to the press release.

Lior Amihai of the activist group Peace Now said the Housing Ministry issued 23,786 planning tenders two weeks ago; the tenders are issued to companies to draw plans to be used in possible future construction.

The construction was to have taken place in a number of years, after the plans went through various stages of government approval, he said.

Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now in Washington, said the plans had included construction in areas deep in the West Bank, east of the barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank.

"This is planning for areas that cannot possibly remain part of Israel or become part of Israel under any negotiated agreement," Friedman said before Netanyahu's announcement. "It's impossible."

A member of the PLO executive committee also said earlier that Netanyahu appeared to be intent on scuttling any hope for a solution in peace talks recently relaunched by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Obviously, Netanyahu is using settlements as a weapon of mass destruction to destroy the chances of peace and torpedo the negotiations," Hanan Ashrawi said. "It is an affront to the whole world and particularly to John Kerry and a deliberate violation to international law."

There are currently more than 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, according to the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, and about 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

CNN's Michael Schwartz and Kareem Khadder reported from Jerusalem. CNN's Tom Watkins reported and wrote from Atlanta.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 4:14 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range, according to Arizona authorities.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 4:15 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 12:44 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The mother of a hostage freed after two years captivity says it's not time to party.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
"I just love it when I get milk-to-dark converts," says Kerrin Rousset, before she leads a small cocoa-hungry crowd through Zurich's Old Town.
ADVERTISEMENT