An Israeli-Palestinian showdown over plans for new Jewish settlements around Jerusalem escalated on Wednesday.
pushed the most contentious of the projects further along in the planning pipeline, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
said he would seek UN Security Council help to block the construction.
Israel is moving ahead despite mounting international condemnation of its settlement plans, some of them activated last week in retaliation for the UN General Assembly's acceptance of a state of Palestine
as a nonmember observer.
Israel has built dozens of settlements for half a million Israelis since its 1967 capture of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – the lands the UN now says make up the state of Palestine.
A redline? E1 area (Photo: Reuters)
The Palestinians are particularly concerned about plans for more than 7,500 apartments and hundreds of hotel rooms in two future settlements, known as E1 and Givat Hamatos, on the eastern and southern edges of Jerusalem.
Critics say the settlements would cut off traditionally Arab east Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland and destroy hopes for a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
Israel had frozen E1 plans under pressure from successive US administrations, but it revived them last week after UN recognition of Palestine. Actual construction may still be years away.
Israel's announcement of the planned construction met harsh international criticism. The US said it was "shocked"
by the move, and Israeli ambassadors in Egypt,
France, the UK,
Italy, Australia, Brazil, Ireland and Finland were summoned by the respective capitals for clarification on Tuesday.
The European Union summoned Israel's ambassador Wednesday to discuss the bloc's concerns over Israeli plans.
Next step? UN Security Council (Photo:AP)
"The Israeli ambassador has been invited by the Executive Secretary General of the EEAS (European External Action Service) to meet to set out the depth of our concerns," a spokesperson for the EU said.
The EU reaction to the expansion plans would be influenced by "the extent to which Israeli moves represent a strategic threat to the possibility of a contiguous and viable state of Palestine with Jerusalem as a shared capital", she added.
Abbas said Wednesday that he is determined to block the settlement building near Jerusalem with all legal and diplomatic means: "The settlement plans that Israel announced, especially E1, are a red line," Abbas told reporters, adding that "this must not happen."
The Palestinian representative to the UN has contacted the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon,
and the head of the Security Council
to sound out the possibilities for a council resolution against settlements, Abbas said.
Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said
that if the US wants to avoid Security Council action, it should pressure Israel to abort its construction plans for the Jerusalem area.
"If the US can stop the Israelis without the Security Council, they should do it," he said. "They (the Americans) cannot stop us and use the veto against people trying to save the peace process."
If the settlements are built, "the idea of peace, the idea of a two-state solution, will disappear," he said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Palestinians should resume talks with Israel, instead of turning to the UN "Here is where it's at, not in New York," Palmor said. "If they have something to say, let them say it to us, directly."
Israeli-Palestinian talks have been frozen for the past four years, with Palestinians saying they cannot go back to the table as long as Israel keeps building on occupied land. Israel argues there should be no conditions.
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