Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would meet next week Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad, said Israeli and Palestinian officials on Wednesday.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad next week,” said the Israeli Premier's spokesman.

Palestinian officials confirmed the meeting and said Mr. Fayyad would hand Mr. Netanyahu a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the stalled peace process.

Direct talks have been on hold since September 2010, but Jordan and the peacemaking Quartet sponsored several rounds between envoys from each side in January. Those talks, held in Amman, were intended to pave the way back to direct negotiations, but ended without agreement on how they might resume.

With the process stalled, Mr. Abbas has reportedly prepared a letter restating Palestinian terms for returning to negotiations and warning that the status quo risks rendering the Palestinian Authority useless.

Israel says it wants to return to the talks without preconditions, but the Palestinians want clear parameters for discussions and an Israeli settlement freeze before they resume negotiations.

Israel's Construction and Housing Ministry published tenders for 1,121 settler homes, most of them in annexed east Jerusalem, with others in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

Of that, 872 are to be built in Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighbourhood in the southern part of Arab east Jerusalem, according to documents on the Ministry website. Another 180 are to be built in Givat Zeev, just north of Jerusalem, while the rest are to be built in Katzrin in the occupied Golan Heights.

Contacted by AFP, a Ministry spokesman dismissed the tenders as “nothing new”, but settlement activists said it was the first time the offers had been made public.

“If the Ministry is suggesting they are not new tenders, they are living in a parallel universe,” said Daniel Seidemann, director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli NGO which tracks developments in east Jerusalem.

Mr. Seidemann said the tenders were part of the punitive campaign Israel vowed to wage against the Palestinians after they won membership at UNESCO.

In early November, Israel said it would build 2,000 new settler homes in response to UNESCO's decision to accept Palestine as a member, of which 1,650 homes were to be built in east Jerusalem.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War.

It considers all of Jerusalem its “eternal, undivided” capital and does not see construction there as settlement building.

But the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state, and furiously denounce settlement construction in the eastern sector of the city.

Legalising settlers

Meanwhile, Mr. Netanyahu told his government on Wednesday that he would seek to legalise three settler outposts established illegally in the West Bank.

Mr. Netanyahu's government has been locked in a legal battle over the future of dozens of small settlement outposts set up without government permission throughout the West Bank.

Activists have challenged the government before the courts, particularly in cases where the outposts have been established wholly or in part on private Palestinian land.

The international community and the Palestinians consider all Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be in violation of international law.

But Israel's government distinguishes between settlements and outposts, which have been established without explicit government permission, usually by ideological hardliners. They often consist of little more than a few caravans, but have proved a thorny issue, with their supporters reacting angrily to attempts to dismantle them.

Efforts to evacuate Migron prompted a wave of so-called price tag attacks, in which perpetrators targeted Palestinians, Arab-Israelis and left-wing activists.

Mr. Netanyahu's remarks on Wednesday come as his government faces a potential new crisis with settlers over a contested home in the flashpoint Palestinian city of Hebron.

A group of six families moved into the second floor of the property last week, saying they had legally purchased the home from its Palestinian owner.

Shortly afterwards, a military order was issued requiring them to evacuate the property by Tuesday afternoon because they had failed to obtain the required military approval to purchase it.

Mr. Netanyahu intervened, seeking a delay in the evacuation, but on Wednesday afternoon, troops began removing the families from the house, said police and an AFP correspondent.

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