The Israeli approval of 3,000 new housing units
in east Jerusalem and the West Bank came as a shock to the US administration, the New York Times reported Saturday.
The Americans were particularly angry at the decision to pursue “preliminary zoning and planning preparations” for a development on the segment connecting the town of Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem (known as area E1) that would separate Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem and could prevent the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
According to the NY Times, the timing of the two actions seemed aimed at punishing the Palestinians for their United Nations bid, which resulted in Palestine being upgraded to the status of a non-member state.
The Obama administration rushed to condemn the action, and senior officials expressed their frustration over the fact that the construction decision came after Israeli officials had suggested that they would only employ harsh retaliatory measures if the Palestinians used their new status to turn to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Ma'aleh Adumim. To be connected to Jerusalem (photo courtesy of Lowshot)
According to the American newspaper, Israel
gave the United States only a few hours’ notice of the plan, and President Barack Obama did not call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This is not just another few houses in Jerusalem or another hilltop in the West Bank,” said former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt Dan Kurtzer. “This is one of the most sensitive areas of territory, and I would hope the United States will lay down the law.”
Building outpost on E1, May 2011 (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
“A number of important countries are telling us that they think it’s wrong to do settlements, and these are our best friends,” noted a senior Israeli government official, who according to the NY Times spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired.
“After they say this directly or indirectly, the immediate response is to build more settlements, even in one of the most controversial areas. E1? How does that make sense? What is the message the government is sending its best friends?”
While Israel has frequently announced settlement expansions at delicate political moments, the NY Times said, the E1 move came as a shock to many after a week in which both Israelis and Palestinians toned down their talk about day-after responses to the United Nations vote.
According to the report, the Palestinians are already advancing less contentious moves: the Palestinian Authority has begun changing its name to “Palestine” on official documents, contracts and websites, and several nations are considering raising the level of diplomatic relations, giving Palestinian envoys the title of ambassador.