Jerusalem - Israel's ongoing building projects in East Jerusalem are non-negotiable, the country's deputy premier said Sunday, despite international criticism that construction in the disputed city is impeding peace talks with the Palestinians.
Silvan Shalom said Israel would continue to build in Jewish 'neighbourhoods' of Jerusalem, beyond the armistice line separating Israel from the occupied West Bank.
'Jerusalem has always been a place where construction has met with objections,' he told Israel Radio.
'These issues are being taken into consideration, but are outside any possibility to negotiate,' he said.
Israel last week announced plans to build 1,100 new housing units in Gilo, a part of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East War.
Israel regards it as a Jewish suburb of Jerusalem, the international community and the Palestinians as an illegal settlement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel angrily condemned the decision in a Friday telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The announcement of the building plans also came as the quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia - launched a fresh attempt to convince the sides to relaunch peace negotiations.