The Palestinian Authority President said Tuesday that he hopes the upcoming Mideast conference in France will set a timetable to end settlements, as Israel moves ahead with new housing unit construction in eastern Jerusalem, despite the recent UN Security Council resolution condemning construction there.
The developments came just days after the United States broke with past practice and allowed the UN Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as a "flagrant violation" of international law.
Abbas's comments early Tuesday morning were his first public remarks since the UN vote.
"The decision lays the foundation for any future serious negotiation ... and it paves the way for the international peace conference slated to be held in Paris next month and we hope this conference comes up with a mechanism and timetable to end the occupation," Abbas told a meeting of his Fatah party. "The (resolution) proves that the world rejects the settlements, as they are illegal, in our occupied land including East Jerusalem."
Israel has consistently made clear its position that a united Jerusalem must remain Israel's capital under Israeli sovereignty, given its significance in Jewish religious tradition.
On January 15, days before President Barack Obama leaves office, France is expected to host a Mideast conference where dozens of countries may endorse an international framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu vehemently opposes such activity, saying it undermines the negotiating process.
Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Abbas to meet for direct talks without preconditions. Abbas has refused unless Israel construction first.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem, home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, as parts of their future state. Israel says settlements, along with other core issues like security, should be agreed upon in peace talks.
Despite the UN resolution condemning settlements, Jerusalem Municipality is set to approve thousands of new housing units in the eastern sector of the city this week. The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported the Jerusalem District Zoning Committee is convening Wednesday to discuss approving fresh construction in that part of the city.
"We remain unfazed by the UN vote, or by any other entity that tries to dictate what we do in Jerusalem," Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Meir Turgeman, who heads the zoning committee, told the paper this week. "I hope the Israeli government and the new US administration will support us, so we can make up for the lack (of construction) during the eight years of the Obama administration."
Netanyahu was outraged by the UN Security Council resolution and has declared a number of steps in response to the measure, which passed 14-0 with an American abstention.
Israel summoned ambassadors from council members, including the US, to protest. Netanyahu is recalling his nation's ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal for consultations and canceling a planned January visit to Israel by Senegal's foreign minister. He also ended Israeli aid programs to the African country.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday slammed the peace summit, calling it "a modern day Dreyfus trial."
"There's only one difference," he asserted, "this time, instead of the defendant being one Jew, it will be the entire nation of Israel and the State of Israel."
He criticized the timing of the summit, which was scheduled for December but postpone to January 15—five days before US President Barack Obama leaves office. Outgoing American Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to attend the summit.