The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday said it would not begin much-anticipated indirect peace talks with Israel until the latter cancels a decision to build 1,600 more apartments in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in northeastern Jerusalem.
Israel announced the approval of the new project on Tuesday, in the midst of US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region, a fact that greatly irritated the American, who immediately issued a public condemnation of both the timing and substance of the announcement.
But Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Biden that condemnations were not enough, and that he would not take part in US-brokered peace talks until Israel rescinds the decision.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated that position on Wednesday:
"We want to hear from [United States envoy George] Mitchell that Israel has cancelled the decision to build housing units before we start the negotiations."
Israeli lawmakers responded by insisting that Jewish construction in Jerusalem will never again be stopped.
"People who feel we embarrassed Biden don’t understand our rights to Jerusalem," Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein told Arutz 7 radio. "If someone thinks that in the framework of peace talks we will agree to split Jerusalem, he is mistaken."