- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2013

The main negotiator in the Palestinian peace process complained to Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday that Israel was mocking the talks by claiming interest in forging a deal while continuing settlement construction in disputed land areas.

Saeb Erekat made the accusation in a letter sent the same day the United States sent special envoys to the Mideast region to discuss peace in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Associated Press reported.

He said: The settlement builds only showed “Israel’s bad faith and lack of seriousness” in peace talks. He also said the United States should exert more pressure to prevent the construction from continuing, AP said.

The letter comes as Israeli Defense Ministry officials announced intent to build more than 1,000 new apartments in the settlement zone. The building still needs final permitting approval, but the Israeli Cabinet already gave a thumbs-up early in the week to more construction projects in the West Bank. Specifically, Cabinet members approved housing loans for another 600 Israeli residential communities in areas of “national priority,” which include poverty-stricken regions and 91 settlement areas, AP reported.

The Palestinians decry the builds. And the United States is seeming to take their side in the matter.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity and oppose any efforts to legitimize settlement outposts,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said, according to AP. “The secretary has made clear that he believes both of the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith and are committed to working together to make progress.”

She also said the United States is addressing the settlement concerns with members of the Israeli government.

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