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Abbas asks U.S. to block settlement construction

(JTA) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the Obama Administration to block a new Israeli plan to build hundreds of additional homes in Jewish settlements.

Israel officials have said the planned construction of new units in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem will be announced next week, just as Israel is set to release 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners under a pledge it made at the outset of peace talks earlier this year.

In a late-night meeting Thursday with U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, Abbas “asked for U.S. intervention to stop the Israeli government from issuing new settlement decisions in order to save the peace process and the American efforts,” top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as telling the Associated Press.

The planned Israeli announcement risks sparking a crisis in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, which resumed in July after a nearly five-year break.

The new construction plans include 600 homes in Ramat Shlomo, an enclave in eastern Jerusalem, and roughly 800 additional homes in the West Bank, according to an Israeli official familiar with the plan.

Under heavy pressure from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Palestinians were forced to drop a demand for a halt in settlement construction. In exchange, Israel agreed to release 104 of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners it holds.

Kerry has urged Israel to show restraint. And an unnamed EU diplomat told Israel’s Channel 10 Thursday that, “Israel needs expect a harsh reaction from the European governments if it intends to go in that direction.”

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