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Palestinians Criticize New Jewish Settlement Construction

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev is seen behind a section of Israel's separation barrier, 15 Oct 2010

Palestinians have accused Israel of deliberately attempting to derail the peace process, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans to build about 240 homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Israel's resumption of settlement construction is a "formula for disaster, not a formula for peace." He commented Friday, a day after Israel approved the building plans for the new housing units in the neighborhoods of Pisgat Zeev and Ramot.

Palestinian officials walked away from direct talks because of Israel's refusal to halt settlement construction in territory Palestinians want for a future state, including East Jerusalem.

News organizations quote Israeli officials as saying they discussed the new construction with U.S. officials and cut the number of planned units in response to U.S. displeasure. Likud party member Danny Danon says Israel has had a "clear policy" for many years that allows for construction in all areas of Jerusalem.

The last time Israel announced new construction plans for East Jerusalem was in March, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The decision and the timing were strongly denounced by the Obama administration.