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After GOP victory, emboldened Israel declares new building in East Jerusalem

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The visit to the US marks the first round of Middle East diplomacy since the midterms.

US 'deeply disappointed'

While a spokeswoman for Israel's Interior Ministry portrayed newspaper planning announcements from last Friday as a "technical'' step, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed Israel for "destroying the peace process,'' according to Agence France-Press.

Palestinians envision East Jerusalem, an area Israel captured in the 1967 war with its Arab neighbors, as the capital of their future state and see Israeli building there as precluding decisions that should be made at the peace table.

SPECIAL REPORT: How Israeli-Palestinian battle for Jerusalem plays out in one neighborhood

State Department Spokesman PJ Crowley said the US is "deeply disappointed'' about the publicized building plans and that it is "counter-productive'' to efforts to restart negotiations.

Since Israel embarrassed Mr. Biden in March, causing a major diplomatic stir, Israeli authorities had imposed a de-facto freeze on Jerusalem building in parallel with the 10-month moratorium on Israeli settlements in the West Bank that ended Sept. 26. The publication of plans to build 1,025 units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa and another 320 in the northwestern neighborhood of Ramot marked a break in that policy.

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