Israel announced plans Wednesday to build more than 1,500 homes in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, dealing a setback to newly relaunched peace efforts hours after it had freed a group of long-serving Palestinian prisoners.
The Palestinians argue the settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, now home to more than 500,000 Israelis, make it increasingly difficult to carve out their state and that continued Israeli construction is a sign of bad faith. Israel says it did not agree to halt settlement construction as a condition to returning to peace talks. It says the areas it is building in are expected to remain part of Israel under any peace deal.
A look at some recent settlement developments: — Just before resuming peace talks this summer, Israel said it was pushing forward with construction on some 3,000 housing units in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel also added more settlements to its "national priority" list of communities eligible for special government subsidies. In all, roughly three-quarters of Jewish settlements are on the priority list.
— In June, Israel said it was moving forward with plans to build more than 1,000 homes in two small isolated Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank, at a time when the U.S. was trying to coax the two sides back to the negotiating table. The settlements to be expanded were in an area of the West Bank that would likely not be part of Israel in any foreseeable partition deal with the Palestinians. Some of the housing was announced in response to a grisly attack in 2011 when a Palestinian stabbed to death a couple and three of their children, including a baby.
— Ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year, Israel gave final approval for the construction of 90 new homes in a West Bank settlement. — Israel granted a West Bank college coveted university status in late 2012. The university is in Ariel, which is positioned deep in the West Bank and home to 19,000 settlers. Palestinians say the continued presence of Ariel is a major obstacle to establishing a state and demand that Israel dismantle the town.
— Following a successful Palestinian bid to seek recognition for their state at the United Nations last November, Israel retaliated with the announcement of thousands of new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as a plan for a settlement in a sensitive area known as E-1. The Palestinians say construction there would deepen east Jerusalem's separation from the West Bank. The move drew international rebuke. Israel made a similar announcement following the Palestinians' acceptance in the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.
— Israel announced plans to build 1,600 homes for Jews in east Jerusalem during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in 2010, sparking one of the worst crises in U.S.-Israel ties in years.