Israel Announces New Building Project in East Jerusalem

Announcement of 1,500 new housing units comes hours after Palestinian prisoner release

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A few hours after freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal to resume peace talks, the Israeli government announced new construction in East Jerusalem, an area Palestinians want for a future state.

Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Lital Apter said on Wednesday that four new projects totaling 1,500 housing units will be built in Ramat Shlomo, a large Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem, the Associated Press reports. The move is seen as an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mollify domestic criticism of the prisoner releases.

In the past, Palestinians have refused to resume peace talks unless Israel ends construction in East Jerusalem, but it’s not clear what impact the new building announcement will have on negotiations, which are taking place away from the public eye. The most recent prisoner release was the second of four planned as part of an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.