TEL AVIV – Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the state to halt construction of 40 homes in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.
The court issued the injunction Thursday in reviewing a petition filed by Palestinian residents near the settlement, Army Radio reported.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said in an interview with Army Radio that the plan to build the 40-home project “has nothing to do” with the visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began on Thursday.
Kerry, who has met multiple times since assuming his job in February with top Israeli and Palestinian leaders, hopes to jumpstart peace talks. In the past, Palestinians and some peace activists have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of timing building launches to sabotage such peace bids.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio the plans were approved by his predecessor, Ehud Barak.
On Wednesday, the Jerusalem Municipality approved construction permits for 69 new homes in Har Homa, a neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have demanded Israel halt construction in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank before peace talks resume. Israel says such talks should go ahead without preconditions.
The U.S. State Department called Israel’s continued settlement construction “unproductive” and “unhelpful” to US efforts to bring the sides back to the negotiating table, a department official told Bloomberg News on condition of anonymity.