JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli committee approved the construction of West Bank housing on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Jordan with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The settlement subcommittee of the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration, the body that oversees governance of the West Bank, on Wednesday approved the building of 732 apartments in Modi’in Ilit, located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and 19 in Kfar Adumim.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon must approve the construction.
Deliberations on more than 300 housing units for several isolated West Bank settlements was postponed at the request of Yaalon, Haaretz reported.
Kerry was in the region in his continuing bid to jump-start peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He met in Amman with Abbas, who was to brief the Palestine Liberation Organization on the talks the following day, according to Reuters.
“It has become a trend to see such Israeli behavior each time an American or an international official visits the region to push forward the negotiation track,” Mohammed Ishtayeh, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, told Reuters.
Also Wednesday, Kerry met with officials from several Arab countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to Reuters, trying to ensure that the Arab League would back a resumption of the peace process.
“The Arab delegates believe Kerry’s ideas proposed to the committee today constitute a good ground and suitable environment for restarting the negotiations, especially the new and important political, economic and security elements,” the Arab League said in a statement following the meeting.
Kerry has welcomed the Arab League’s revival of its 2002 peace initiative, which posited comprehensive peace in exchange for a return to the 1967 borders as the basis for restarting peace talks.