JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly will wait until after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to announce new construction in West Bank settlements.
Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday in a bid to boost the current U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. He reportedly will stay through Sunday and could extend his trip by several days in order to work for progress.
Kerry was last in Israel less than three weeks ago; it is his 12 visit to Israel since becoming secretary of state.
Netanyahu asked Housing Minister Uri Ariel to delay announcement of the tenders for the construction of 1,400 housing units in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, Haaretz reported Wednesday evening.
Israeli media had reported last week that Netanyahu would announce up to 2,000 tenders for new settlement housing units on the heels of the third Palestinian prisoner release, to which Israel agreed more than three months ago in conjunction with the Palestinians’ return to the negotiating table. The release occurred after midnight on Monday night and the new West Bank construction had not been announced as of late Wednesday night.
Both the United States and the European Union have called on Netanyahu to refrain from announcing new settlement construction during Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
West Bank settlement housing construction projects were announced in October following the second release of Palestinian prisoners. The projects were roundly criticized by the United States, international bodies and international leaders.