In response to the announcement, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said, “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a message to Mr. Kerry today, and the message reads: Do not continue your peace efforts.... They know very well that this destroys the peace process.”
Erekat negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel and was the Palestinians' chief negotiator from 1995 until May 2003, when he resigned in protest from the Palestinian government. He later reconciled with the party and was reappointed to the position in September 2003. He also serves as a member of the Palestinian Parliament, representing Jericho.
Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel on January 6 after his five-day visit to the region, during which he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Following his meeting with the two leaders, Kerry said of his attempts to facilitate the peace process that the two sides were “not there yet, but we are making progress and we are beginning to flesh out the toughest hurdles yet to be overcome.”
A spokesman for Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, condemned Israel's announcement of new housing, stating, “This decision demonstrates continued Israeli obstruction of U.S. efforts to create a path to peace based on a two-state solution.”
A report from Bloomberg News noted that peace talks brokered by Secretary of State Kerry began in July and are scheduled to run for nine months. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said on January 7 that Kerry hopes to propose a blueprint within a month that would guide negotiations toward a final treaty.
The New York Times reported that the new housing plan was also criticized within Israel and quoted Ofer Shelah, a member of Netanyahu’s coalition from the centrist Yesh Atid Party, who called the announcement “regrettable both in content and in the timing.”
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Photo of Gush Etzion settlement in the West Bank