“The Marker” Israeli newspaper reported Monday that the Israeli government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, decided to allocate dozens of millions of US Dollars for settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. The paper said that the settlers would be compensated for the delay in receiving their units in West Bank settlements due to the “settlement freeze”.
The government allocated at least 40 Million US Dollars to the settlements and the settlers, as a compensation for the claimed “settlement freeze”. The funds would be transferred to the settlers in two months.
Also on Monday, the Israeli government approved the construction of dozens of units for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli decision came only one day after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) approved holding indirect talks with Israel.
On Monday, Israel decided to build 112 homes for settlers in the illegal Beitar Illit settlement in the West Bank.
Its decision came amidst ongoing constructions in West Bank settlements and in settlements in East Jerusalem, in addition to ongoing violations and increasing orders to demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied city.
The indirect talks were halted 17 months ago due to Israel’s ongoing construction and expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority, headed by president Mahmoud Abbas, backed down on its stance regarding not holding talks with Israel unless it completely halts all of its settlement activities.
US Vice President, Joe Biden, who landed in Israel on Monday afternoon, will start Tuesday a series of talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Israeli and the Palestinian positions.
Netanyahu is hoping that the “proximity” indirect talks, mediated by the United States, would lead to direct talks in the coming weeks. Yet, his stances regarding settlements, Jerusalem, and other main issues remain unchanged.
Following a Monday meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and US George Mitchell, in Ramallah, senior Palestinian officials said that the readiness and willingness of the United States to change its policies are very limited.
Chief Palestinian Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, said that every time an American official visits the region, Israel steps-up its settlement activities.
Erekat added that the issue of settlements was the main issue discussed during the meeting between Abbas and Mitchell.
Abbas complained to Mitchell about Israel’s approval for the construction of 112 new homes for Jewish settlers in Beitar Illit settlement in the West Bank.
Israel said that the plan was initially approved by the government of former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and is not considered part of the claimed settlement freeze.
Sources within the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank said that the US administration is not pressuring Israel to halt its settlement activities, and is just adhering to Israel’s demands.
They said that the indirect talks are only placing pressure on the Palestinians, and are affecting the reliability of the Palestinian leadership while “Israel is ongoing with its violations under American complicity”.
President Abbas called on Israel to halt all of its settlement activities, but did not threat to stop the indirect talks.
The Hamas movement slammed the decision to resume indirect talks with Israel while it is ongoing with its settlement activities and violations. Several Palestinian factions also opposed the resumption of the talks under the current conditions.