UN vote on Palestine likely to kick off Israeli settlement building spree


Israel has responded to the United Nations’ decision to grant Palestine the status of non-member observer by announcing the building of 3,000 settler homes in the West Bank.

Planning permission will also be expedited for thousands of additional housing units in east Jerusalem and settlement blocs, including in the controversial area connecting Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, known as E-1.

A senior official said further moves were also being considered in response to the UN vote.

Splitting the West Bank

Last week Washington urged Israel not to allow construction in E-1, which is designed to ensure territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, and would cut the West Bank in two.

The settlement plan united the Israeli opposition, anti-settler groups and Palestinians, who all criticised it.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, said: “This is Israeli aggression against the Palestinian state and the world must take responsibility.”

The Israeli Labour party said construction would harm “Israel’s legitimate interests in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs.” Anti-settlement pressure group Yesh Din criticised the move as a “collective punishment and an infringement of the Palestinians’ basic rights.”

Earlier, the prime minister’s office put out a statement saying that, by going to the UN, the Palestinians had violated their agreements with Israel

“This was a meaningless decision that won’t change anything. Israel will not allow an Iranian terror base to exist in the West Bank, in addition to the ones that already exist in Gaza and Lebanon,” it said.

Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said the speech to the general assembly by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas proved, once again, thatMr Abbas was “an enemy who has no desire for peace”.

Labour party leader Shelly Yachimovich said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu needed to ask himself and his partner, Mr Lieberman, how Israel could have suffered such a defeat, and how it was they, of all people, who had given the Palestinians such a gift.

Slap in the face

Zahava Gal-On, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, said the world had given Mr Netanyahu a “big slap in the face”. She congratulated the Palestinians on establishing a state and called on Mr Netanyahu to renew peace talks with Mr Abbas.

On the right, Jewish Homeland leader, Naftali Bennett, called the Palestinian bid for statehood “a political terrorist attack”, and called on Mr Netanyahu to withdraw his stated support for the two-state solution.

But Palestinians in Ramallah celebrated with jubilation. Thousands of flag-waving people set off fireworks and danced in the streets when word came through of the UN vote.