Abby Ohlheiser reports for The Atlantic:
Even as Israel readies to release just over two-dozen Palestinian prisoners ahead of Wednesday’s scheduled peace talks, the country’s Sunday announcement that Israel will move forward with construction of 1,200 settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has overshadowed — and might derail — the first round of direct Israel-Palestine peace talks since 2010.
Israel’s Housing Minister Uri Ariel answered criticism of the plan, both from Palestinians and from opposition parties within Israel, by arguing that “No country in the world will accept dictates from other countries where it is allowed to build and where not to,” adding, “This is the right thing to do, both in Zionist and economic terms.” The Israeli settlements, planned for portions of the land that Palestine would like to use to construct a state based on the 1967 borders, are widely considered illegal under international law. They’re also the same topic that stopped the last round of peace talks in 2010. At the announcement of the current round of talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that Israel would slow — but not freeze — settlement construction as talks continued.
Because of the announced settlement plans, the third settlement-advancing announcement this week, Palestine might not show up to the U.S.-brokered peace talks scheduled to start Wednesday.