West Bank, Agencies - The Housing Ministry has issued a tender to hire an architect to plan the construction of 1,200 housing units in the E1 area, which links Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim settlement in the West Bank, as part of a larger wave of tenders to construct some 20,000 housing units in the West Bank at a cost of nearly $13 million (NIS 45 million), Israeli daily Harretz reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered to halt potential construction of about 24,000 homes in the West Bank and emphasized that the tenders have no legal or practical significance that creates unnecessary friction with the international community at a time when Israel is trying to recruit it for a better deal on Iran.
When the news of the tenders broke Tuesday evening, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to call off peace talks. He demanded Israel go back on its new settlement plans, and called for an emergency meeting Wednesday in Ramallah to discuss the issue.
A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz that Abbas spoke to Kerry and other members of the Quartet, as well as Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi.
The U.S. State Department said it is "deeply concerned" by Israel's announcement over the tenders issued for the construction of some 24,000 new settlement units in the West Bank and that it is demanding explanations from Israel.