The Palestinian Authority (PA) is demanding that Israel cancel its decision to market about 1,200 new housing units in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, even before the next round of “peace talks” scheduled for Wednesday.
Voice of Israel public radio quoted an anonymous senior PA official as saying the PA leadership has informed the United States of this decision and is awaiting a response. The official said that if this is the way Israel wants to reach peace, then there is no need for negotiations and “let Netanyahu make peace with [Bayit Yehudi head Naftali] Bennett.”
Voice of Israel notes that the announcement regarding the tenders was made just as PA head Mahmoud Abbas was meeting U.S. Mediator Martin Indyk in Ramallah.
Voice of Israel also said that PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Israel does not want the PA to come to the negotiating table, and that it may succeed in achieving this. Erekat was speaking to Al Arabiya, in response to the announcement of new tenders by Israel.
The decision to announce the new tenders has exposed some of the rifts within the Israeli coalition government.
Left-wing coalition members Yesh Atid and Hatnua have come out against it, with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid calling it a “double mistake” and “a provocation.”
Hatnua MK Amir Peretz accused the Bayit Yehudi party - of whom Housing Minister Uri Ariel is a member - of trying to "sabotage" talks with the Palestinian Authority.
But coalition members from the right, including most notably the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, had a very different take on the decision.
In a post on his Facebook page, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett announced:
"[PA negotiator Saib] Erekat said just now that we may not build in our capital, in Jerusalem.
"The question is not 'why are we building in Jerusalem now?'
"The question is, why didn't we build until now?
"In the Bayit Yehudi, we will keep fighting for construction in our land.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) slammed critics of the decision, declaring that "No country in the world accepts diktats from other countries on where it is allowed to build or not," adding "We shall continue to market apartments and build throughout the country."
Nir Barkat, the independent mayor of Jerusalem - where most of the construction is due to take place - also lauded the decision as "essential for the city's development and strength," adding that "I am happy that the government of Israel sees this important need eye to eye with us."