Israel okayed nearly 14,000 settler homes during talks: NGO

A general view taken on April 8, 2014, shows Israeli construction cranes and excavators at a building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov, in the northern area of east Jerusalem. Israel approved plans for nearly 14,
A general view taken on April 8, 2014, shows Israeli construction cranes and excavators at a building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov, in the northern area of east Jerusalem. Israel approved plans for nearly 14,000 new settler homes during the nine months of peace talks with the Palestinians, an Israeli settlement watchdog said on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, as the negotiation period formally ended. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel approved plans for nearly 14,000 new settler homes during the nine months of peace talks with the Palestinians, an Israeli settlement watchdog said on Tuesday as the negotiation period formally ended.

Figures quoted by Peace Now showed that during the talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government approved at least 13,851 new housing through the advancement of plans and the publication of tenders.

"This is an unprecedented number representing an average of 50 housing units per day or 1,540 per month," it said.

"Netanyahu broke construction records during the nine-month peace talks," Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer told AFP.

Israel's ongoing settlement building has weighed heavily on the negotiation process, with the Palestinians infuriated by the relentless pace of new construction approvals on land they want for a future state.

They have demanded a complete settlement freeze as one of the key conditions for any return to the crisis-hit talks.

But Israel has flatly refused, with Netanyahu rejecting the notion that settlement building ran counter to peace efforts, saying he never agreed to any "restraints on construction" throughout the talks.