The Israeli government is concerned that a major new report on the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians could blame the current stagnation on Israeli settlement building.
While the report by the Quartet, representing the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, is not binding, the fear in Jerusalem is that it could serve as a basis to force Israel to negotiate from a disadvantageous position.
It is unclear whether the Obama administration has any plans to re-engage with the Israel-Palestine conflict in the seven months that are left before a new president comes in.
However, a highly critical report could lend impetus to the French initiative to convene an international conference on the conflict in Paris. It could also boost Palestinian plans to secure a UN Security Council resolution condemning the settlements and setting a timetable for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
According to reports in Haaretz, Israeli diplomats are urging their Quartet counterparts to “tone down” the document.
Haaretz also published details of Israeli Defence Ministry plans to build a new settlement for 40 families living at the Amona outpost in the West Bank, which the Supreme Court has ruled was built on private Palestinian land and has to be dismantled by the end of this year. This plan follows permits issued by the ministry last month to build hundreds of homes on “isolated” settlements, although the government claims these are only “upgrades” for existing buildings.
Meanwhile, in eastern Jerusalem, settlers took ownership of building with six flats in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. While the circumstances are unclear, it seems that the Ateret Cohanim settlers organisation bought the building secretly from its Palestinian owners.
This week it was revealed that the state had expropriated land in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem and awarded it to Amana, the settlers’ building company.
The lot on which Amana is now building its new headquarters is on land expropriated for “public use” in 1968.
The Supreme Court denied the original Palestinian owner’s claim that the land was not part of the area designated for public use but criticised the procedures used by the state to transfer the parcel of land to Amana.