State Condoleezza Rice called on Israel on Tuesday not to undermine peace talks with the Palestinians after a report found it had nearly doubled Jewish settlement construction.
"The settlement activity is not conducive to creating an environment for negotiations," Rice told a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "Yet negotiations go on."
Earlier Tuesday, a Peace Now report regarding construction efforts in the West Bank in the first two quarters of 2008 charged that "Israel is working to erase the Green Line."
The report revealed that more than 1,000 new structures are currently being built in the settlements, some 55% of them east of the fence.
According to the organization, figures confirmed by the National Bureau of Statistics indicate construction for the period of January through June is nearly double compared to the same period in 2007.
Furthermore, the group claims a 550% increase in the number of building tenders for West Bank settlements (417 housing units compared to 65 in 2007). A total of 125 new structures have been added to outposts, 30 of these are permanent buildings.
The report says recent years have seen increased efforts to 'erase' the Green Line by a pattern of building intended to create territorial continuity between the large settlement blocs and isolated settlements in the heart of the West Bank. Construction in communities near the city of Nablus demonstrates this trend: Yakir – 20 housing units, Karni Shomron – 35 units, Alfe-Menashe – 70 units and in Emmanuel – five new industrial buildings.
Peace Now says at least 425 new structures have been built in isolated settlements in the past six months, primarily in Kiryat Arba, Yitzhak, Itamar, Kfar Tapuach, Telmon and the nearby outposts – Shiloh and Dolev. There is also increased construction in Jerusalem, particularly in Pisgat Ze'ev, Har Homa and East Talpiot.
"The State of Israel is heading towards a miserable reality, one where even if we genuinely wanted to separate ourselves from the Palestinians, we will not be able to do so on the ground, and we will be forced to live in a bi-national state," Peace Now says.
The Yesha Council responded to the report: "We welcome every additional Jewish home built in Judea and Samaria and share in the sorrow of those who authored this report, despite all their pestering, petitioning and reporting – the construction goes on, even though it is less than is required and as is deserving."