Repeated reports that Israel’s government had curbed settlement expansion as a favor to Secretary of State John Kerry have been proven false today, as official government figures show that not only was new construction not curbed, it was actually dramatically escalated.
The data released for the first quarter of 2013 showed new housing starts in the Occupied West Bank nearly tripled, to 865 new starts from only 313 during the same period of 2012.
The revelation appear to be splitting the Palestinian Authority on the question of peace talks, with President Mahmoud Abbas maintaining that he supports Kerry’s efforts, while influential (and jailed) leader Marwan Barghouti insists the expansion shows Israel is not sincere about its lip-service to the peace process.
Palestinians have long conditioned a return to peace talks on the settlement freeze, since it would be next to impossible to negotiate borders if Israel is constantly encroaching deeper into the occupied territory. Israel’s government has repeatedly ruled out any freezes, even of a partial nature.