Israel Settlement
Israel is preparing to construct 24,000 more settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Reuters) Reuters

Israel is preparing plans to build 24,000 more homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, an anti-settlement group has claimed.

The move calls into question the Israeli government's commitment to US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinian National Authority.

Peace Now, a group which tracks Israel's settlement activity within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, released a statement claiming that the Israeli Housing Ministry had issued tenders in October for the preparation of construction plans, but that building work was yet to commence nor close to beginning.

"With tenders for planning, what we are seeing is a very early stage that can open the door for construction not in the short term, but several years down the road," said Peace Now.

The potential project, which includes a total of 19,786 housing units in the West Bank and 4,000 in East Jerusalem, is a significant indicator in gauging the Israeli government's stance towards future settlement building, the group claimed.

Peace Now highlighted one plan which called for construction of settlements in a delicate stretch between Jerusalem and Ramallah, where the Palestinian government sits.

"The issuing of tenders for planning is unequivocal evidence that Netanyahu intends to prevent the real chances of a negotiated agreement and a two-state solution," Peace Now said.

The group claims that the tenders for construction contained plans for 1,200 further housing units in the E-1 district near Jerusalem where the construction of 3,000 settlements had been earlier suspended due to U.S. pressure on the Israeli government.

The Palestinian National Authority is yet to comment on the new plans revealed by Peace Now.

The tenders have been published to coincide the visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who faced Palestinian anger over Israel's prior announcement to build 3,500 settler homes in the territory.

Ariel Rosenberg, a Israeli Housing Ministry spokesman, confirmed that the tenders had indeed been issues but that there is a long process before any building was actually approved.

"The tenders are a basis for building plans and they all still have to go through lengthy legal procedures before building starts," said Rosenberg.

Israel claims historical and biblical links to the areas of construction in question, where more than half a million Israeli's live with 2.5 million Palestinians. Whereas, Palestinians believe that Israeli settlement building will impede their political battle for a workable Palestinian state.

The United States considers the settlements to be illegitimate and Kerry, during his recent visit, called for Israel to restrict its settlement building "as much as possible" in order to aid negotiations.

The US-brokered talks have yielded little progress since they were resumed after a three year break in July.

Peace Now stated that the latest tenders "will make it even more difficult for the Palestinians to remain at the negotiating table".