Al-Quds mayor denies partial freeze
Israel has dismissed US assurances of a partial freeze in al-Quds (Jerusalem), saying construction projects will continue throughout the occupied city.
“The real test is of practical steps — the municipality continues to advance building in all parts of the city, in accordance with master plans for Jews and Arabs alike,” English-language Ynetnews website quoted Nir Barkat, the Israeli mayor of al-Quds, as saying in a statement early on Monday.
“We expect the Interior Ministry and the Housing Ministry to approve the plans and assist in the effort to preserve the young population and the hold on Jerusalem, which suffers from lack of housing, to stop the emigration from the city. We trust the prime minister not to approve a freeze in Jerusalem, not in words and not in deeds,” the statement further read.
The announcement came only hours after US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell said that Israel had agreed to freeze construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East al-Quds.
Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau also expressed concern over the announcement of a freeze, describing the move as “serious error.”
“I am not familiar with all the details, but if what I heard is true, this is a serious error. I intend to say so to Netanyahu, and I will express the same opinion before the entire government,” he said.
Freezing the illegal settlement expansions in the occupied West Bank, especially in annexed East al-Quds, has been the Palestinians’ precondition to return to the negotiating table with Israel.
The US-led effort to convene the feuding sides to hold indirect “proximity talks” failed in March after Tel Aviv announced 1,600 new settlement units in East al-Quds.
Mitchell’s recent announcement warns that if the indirect peace talks between Palestinians and Israel were to fail, the responsibility would be on the side that took steps that significantly undermined confidence in the peace process.