WASHINGTON - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Israeli approval of plans for the building of housing units in east Jerusalem, stating that "settlements are illegal under international law."
A statement issued by Ban's spokesman, published Wednesday morning, said, "The secretary-general condemns the approval of plans for the building of 1,600 new housing units in east Jerusalem by the Israeli Ministry of Interior earlier today.
"Furthermore, he underscores that settlement activity is contrary to Israel's obligations under the Roadmap, and undermines any movement towards a viable peace process," the statement said.
The Kadima party harshly condemned the Interior Ministry's authorization of the new east Jerusalem housing units, saying, "this is a new record for political stupidity."
A party spokesman said, "Netanyahu does not control his cabinet. Lacking leadership and lacking a path, every minister acts irresponsibly. Netanyahu's political survival games damage Israel's vital interests. When the defense minister criticizes his government, it's official – there is no prime minister in Israel and the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing."
The plan will extend the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in a southeasterly direction, upgrade the entrance road and add an access road from the west. The plan spreads across some 580 dunams (143 acres), while the average size of each housing unit is 120 square meters (1,290 square feet).
The plan has been submitted for public comment. The public has 60 days to file an objection to the plan, which will then be discussed by the committee – a process that could take some time.
US Vice President Joe Biden, currently visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority to promote "proximity talks", said Tuesday, "I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel."
On Wednesday sources close to Defense Minister Ehud Barak also criticized the timing of the plan's approval, saying it "damages the negotiations with the Palestinians."
The sources said in a statement, "Israel has been working for several months now to build trust between the sides in order to begin negotiations, and our practical steps must take this into account."
Roni Sofer contributed to the report