A new report shows that Israeli has stepped up settlement expansion, despite international pressure.
Israeli settlement construction increased by 20 percent last year compared to 2010, according to the annual report of Israel's Peace Now movement.
“2011 was an excellent year for the settlers,” said Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer, who announced the findings at a news conference. He said Israel approved construction of thousands of Jewish homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, on land the Palestinians seek for a future state.
The construction occurred despite opposition from the international community, which sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace.
Oppenheimer said the settlements are destroying the opportunity for a two-state solution.
The Israeli government described Peace Now’s figures as exaggerated and said that Israel has exercised “great restraint” with regard to settlement construction.
Right-wing Israeli parliamentarian Arieh Eldad says building is a biblical and historical right. “Jews are allowed to live everywhere in the Land of Israel, to live everywhere in their homeland,” said Eldad.
Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khattib said the Israeli government has chosen settlements over peace.
“By insisting on the illegal expansion of settlements, Israel is expressing its determination to further undermine the chances of resuming a meaningful peace process, and unfortunately, putting the whole region in danger,” he said.
The settlement issue has fueled a three-year stalemate in the peace process. The Palestinians will not return to the negotiating table until Israel stops all settlement activity, but Israel says peace talks should resume without preconditions.