The Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza has called the decision of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee to resume negotiations with Israel an “encouragement” for the Zionist state to escalate its settlement programme in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. During the official opening of the “The Road to Jerusalem” project opposite the government building in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh told reporters, “The decision of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee and the Palestinian Authority to resume any form of negotiations with the Israeli government is wrong because it has encouraged the Israelis to expand the settlement programme.” The Arabs and Palestinians should learn from past experience, he added, and not rush to negotiate with Israel.
According to Mr. Haniyeh, Israeli actions in Jerusalem cannot be recognized because they are “illegal”. Although Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital, most of the world regards East Jerusalem as illegally occupied territory. “Despite Israel’s aggressive attacks on our land and religious sites in Jerusalem,” he said, “the Palestinians won’t abandon the holy city.”
Israel’s Committee for Planning and Building, part of the Ministry of the Interior, has announced the ratification of 1600 new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement in north Jerusalem. The announcement coincided with the visit of the US Vice President, Joe Biden, to Israel and the West Bank to put both sides on track for the resumption of negotiations after a lull of fifteen months.