JERUSALEM — The Israeli government said yesterday it is pressing ahead with plans for a new road to a large West Bank settlement, drawing swift Palestinian condemnation.
Also yesterday, a Palestinian militant was killed in a clash with Israeli forces on the Gaza border. The Israeli military said soldiers opened fire on Palestinians planting explosives, killing one.
Border clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants trying to infiltrate or plant bombs are relatively common.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the plan to build a new West Bank highway sabotages US efforts to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Palestinians demand a halt to all Israeli building in the West Bank before they will resume direct peace talks. Construction, such as the road, would take place on land the Palestinians desire for a future state and, from their point of view, cements the Israeli presence in the West Bank.
Israel’s Housing and Construction Ministry said in a statement that it is seeking bids for the highway from Jerusalem to nearby Maaleh Adumim, a settlement of about 35,000 residents. The ministry said the project does not violate Israel’s freeze on West Bank housing construction.
While visiting Greece yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that patience was needed in restarting direct negotiations with the Palestinians but that launching the talks would not take years or even months.
Netanyahu showed no sign of backing down from his insistence that there be no preconditions, such as a timeline or agenda, before direct talks can begin — a demand of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations — aimed ultimately at establishing a permanent status for the Palestinians — broke down in December 2008.
Since then, mediators have been seeking ways to reconcile the two sides’ demands for restarting the talks.
“For the past year and a half I’ve been trying to have direct meetings without a predetermined agenda with the Palestinian Authority,’’ Netanyahu said during a joint news conference in Athens with Greece’s prime minister, George Papandreou.
“We have to have patience,’’ Netanyahu said.