The construction of more than a 1,000 new homes is to take place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which could endanger upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Meanwhile, Israel is set to free Palestinian prisoners.
The Palestinians have expressed outrage after Israel announced the approval of the construction of 1,187 new apartments in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on Sunday.
"The international community must stand with this peace process and must stand shoulder to shoulder with us and hold Israel accountable for its continuing settlement activities," Saeb Erekat told the Reuters news agency.
However, the lead negotiator for the Palestinians stopped short of threatening to pull out of the first peace talks with the Israelis in three years. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza for a future state, all territory that Israel seized in the 1967 war. Until recently, they had refused to re-enter talks unless Israel agreed to freeze all settlement construction activity.
Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel had announced the approval of the settlement homes in a statement released earlier in the day.
"No country in the world takes orders from other countries where it can build and where it can't," a statement released by Ariel said. "We will continue to market housing and build in the entire country ... This is the right thing at the present time, for Zionism and for the economy."
Also on Sunday, Germany’s foreign minister began a visit to the region.
Following a meeting with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem on Sunday, Guido Westerwelle told reporters that Germany intended to play a "constructive and supportive role" in the new round of peace negotiations. He added that the peace talks were in the interests not only of both parties, but also the region and the entire world.
pfd/kms (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)