UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-General Ban Ki-moon says he is gravely concerned and disappointed that Israel is to go ahead with 3,000 new settlement units in east Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.
In a statement, he said plans to build units in the so-called E-1 envelope “risks completely cutting off east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank”.
The area runs between the easternmost edge of annexed east Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim settlement and is highly-contentious. Any settlement would cut the West Bank in two and make the creation of a Palestine state even more difficult.
“Settlements are illegal under international law and, should the E-1 settlement be constructed, it would represent an almost-fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution,” continued Ban.
The Secretary-General repeated his call for all parties to resume negotiations and intensify their efforts to provide a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace”.
“In the interests of peace, any plans for E-1 must be rescinded,” he concluded.
Israel announced the proposal to build 3,000 settler homes on Friday, a day after a landmark UN vote which saw Palestine recognised as a non-member observer state. An Israeli official confirmed it was part of a “comprehensive settlement plan”.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also revealed yesterday that the Jewish state would not transfer about $100 million in tax and tariff funds it collects for the Palestinians this month. The move has been described as a retaliation against Palestine winning the UN vote for statehood.
The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as capital of their state and vigorously resist expansion plans for Maaleh Adumim, which lies five kilometres from the city’s eastern edge.
Arab east Jerusalem was captured by Israel with the rest of the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its “eternal, indivisible” capital, and does not view construction in the eastern sector to be settlement activity.
-Additional reporting by AFP