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Kerry leaves Israel without framework agreement as West Bank housing plans published

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel published plans to build nearly 300 West Bank apartments as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a visit to the Middle East without an official framework agreement between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

Kerry left Israel for the United States on Monday after pressing U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for several days.

The framework agreement reportedly will deal with all core issues — borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem and mutual recognition, among others — and pull together the ideas that have been discussed in peace negotiations over the past five months.

On Sunday, building plans were published for 272 housing units in two West Bank settlements, Ofra and Karnei Shomron, The Associated Press reported, citing an Israeli defense official. The plans had been approved in October.

With the publishing of the plans, building could begin in the coming weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had 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 until after Kerry’s visit, the Israeli media reported last week. Reports had said Netanyahu wanted to announce the tenders last month on the heels of the third Palestinian prisoner release.

On Monday, Netanyahu reportedly told Knesset members from his Likud party that he would oppose withdrawal from settlements such as Hebron and Beit El, which are not part of major settlement blocs but are “important to the Jewish people,” according to The Jerusalem Post, citing lawmakers at the faction meeting.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday advocated moving the border as part of a final peace settlement that would result in an exchange of population in the mostly Israeli-Arab area of Wadi Ara.

 

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