JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinians could turn to international bodies to prevent Israel from expanding settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian leader said.
“We are saying very clearly that if Israel does not stop, then we have to move,” Hanan Ashrawi told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to Jewish settlements in eastern Jerusalem, where hundreds of new apartment units have been approved by Israeli government bodies in recent weeks.
The action could threaten the newly relaunched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Palestinians had agreed not to turn to international organizations or join international bodies for nine months, the expected time frame for this round of talks.
The last talks broke down in 2010 after Israel refused to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement construction.
“There has been no breakthrough and no agreement. Discussions have not been on specifics,” Ashrawi said of the renewed peace talks. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met twice in the past two weeks in Jerusalem.
She said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had linked the agreement not to go to the United Nations or other international bodies to Israel’s promise to release 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners. Israel has said the release of the prisoners, in four phases, is contingent on progress in the peace process.
Ashrawi said the approvals announced earlier this month of more than 3,000 apartment units for several settlements, including some far-flung ones, could torpedo the peace process. Israel, she said, was “deliberately destroying the chances of success for these talks.”
The talks have been under a near-complete media blackout at the request of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.