UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Sunday that Israeli plans for new settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank would deal an "almost fatal blow" to any prospects for peace with the Palestinians.
Israel's announcement about the 3,000 settler homes, whose planned location was not revealed, came in the wake of a historic UN vote to upgrade Palestine's diplomatic status.
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"Settlements are illegal under international law and, should the E1 settlement be constructed, it would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution," Ban's office said in a statement.
His spokesperson said Ban expressed "grave concern and disappointment" at the bid that risks completely cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
"The secretary-general repeats his call on all concerned to resume negotiations and intensify efforts towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace and urges the parties to refrain from provocative actions," the statement added.
March of folly? The Cabinet (Archives: Mark Israel Salem)
On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly backed a resolution recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that by going to the UN, the Palestinians had "violated" previous agreements with Israel, such as the 1993 Oslo Accords, and that his country would "act accordingly."
Peace talks have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis insisting on no preconditions.
'Red flag for US'
Meanwhile, the government's decision to pursue the construction of 3,000 housing unites in Jerusalem and the West Bank, met a mixed response on the ground.
"To go ahead with the plan is to essentially say 'I don't believe in the two-state solution,'" Colonel (Res.) Shaul Arieli, of the Council for Peace, told Ynet.
"The price we will pay for it is unreasonable. We're butting heads with the Americans and we're giving the Palestinians a reason to seek ICC action," he added.
Arieli, who is considered a leading expert on the Israeli-Palestinian political process, warned that if the decision comes into fruition, "There would be no going back."
Ma'aleh Adumim (Photo: Lowshot)
The plan includes building hundreds of housing units in the stretch of land between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, known as E1, and according to Arieli, that would essentially "kill" any hope for a Palestinian territorial continuity in east Jerusalem.
He further wanted that construction in E1 be "a red flag" for the US administration. "This is a march of folly, and anything could happen, but I believe this move was aimed to attract voters – nothing more."
"I was happy to learn about the construction plans, but we all know nothing will come of it," Rinat, a resident of Ma'aleh Adumim, told Ynet.
"If they really intended to build here they would have done so already. The reality is that the government is scared of Obama. This is all just to convince us to vote for the Likud," she said.
"But I'll believe it when I see it. The problem is that we're suckers. What is likely to happen is that everything that we build here will be handed over to the Palestinians."
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