Israel will build 1,400 new homes in the contested territories of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, its housing ministry announced on Friday.
A total of 800 houses will be built in various West Bank settlements and 600 in Ramat Shlomo in east Jerusalem; Palestinians lay claim to both territories. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the developments hinder “American efforts aimed at creating a peace track toward a two state solution.”
The announcement had been expected earlier in January after Israel completed its third release of Palestinian prisoners since the peace talks resumed last summer. In the past, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced construction plans in the West Bank to curb backlash among hardline supporters for releasing Palestinian prisoners.
Israel’s statement was likely postponed in an effort to avoid coinciding U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the region, according to the Associated Press. Kerry has said the building program casts doubt over Israel’s commitment to the peace talks.