A day after Palestine won a historic UN vote upgrading its status to a non-member observer state, Israel on Saturday unveiled plans to build 3,000 more Jewish homes, including in controversial areas that would sharply divide the West Bank, severely hampering prospects of peace.
Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in consultation with his inner Cabinet, ordered that 3,000 new housing units be constructed in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including through advancing long-frozen project for the so called E1 area which covers territory that links the city of Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.
If implemented, the controversial project would prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank, making it difficult for a future Palestinian state to function.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the Israeli announcement, saying Jerusalem was “defying the whole international community and insisting on destroying the two-state solution. The Palestinian leadership was studying its options.”
In a historic session of the United Nations in New York on Thursday, exactly 65 years after passing the Partition Plan for Palestine, the General Assembly voted by a huge majority to recognise Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member state with observer status in the world body.
Some 138 countries, including India, voted in favour of the resolution, 41 abstained and 9, including the US and Canada, voted against it.
Following the vote, American envoy at the United Nations, Susan Rice, said the resolution does not establish Palestine as state, and it prejudges the outcome of negotiations ignoring questions of security.
The US, however, condemned the Israeli decision to build the 3,000 new homes in the settlements.
“These actions are counter-productive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
“We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction and announcements... Direct negotiations remain our goal and we encourage all parties to take steps to make that goal easier to achieve,” the White House spokesman said.