Israel plans to announce a push for more construction in Jewish settlements when it frees two dozen Palestinian prisoners next week, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, in a move that could jeopardize U.S.-brokered peace talks.
Palestinians have said any further settlement expansion could scuttle the negotiations, which resumed in July after intensive shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Talks ran aground in 2010 over the same issue.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued to pledge more settlement building, often timing the announcement of these plans to offset the anger of far-right political partners at Israel's release of Palestinians jailed for deadly attacks.
"Israel will declare new building in the settlements next week," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He would not say how many units were planned or where.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon hinted at new settlement plans as well during a visit to a military base where he told reporters:
"I think it is our right to build, certainly according to our understandings and agreements with the Americans. And in accordance with that, we shall continue to build."