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Israel out for construction of 6,000 settler homes; UN opposes plan

JERUSALEM:-Israel pushed forward with plans for 3,658 new settler homes on Wednesday, most of them in annexed east Jerusalem, sparking Palestinian fury and UN calls for the Jewish state to cancel its plans.

Israel s plans for the construction of 2,610 homes in the as yet unbuilt Givat HaMatos district in east Jerusalem was quickly followed by the announcement of tenders for another 1,048 units, most of them in the occupied West Bank.

Wednesday s developments came two days after the approval of another 1,500 homes in east Jerusalem, which prompted Washington to denounce Israel for its “pattern of provocative action.”

Meeting  in New York on Wednesday, the United Nations urged Israel to cancel its construction plans, warning that if they were implemented, it could deal “an almost fatal blow” to peace hopes.

Speaking as the Security Council met to discuss the Middle East conflict, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “concerned by heightened settlement activity” and urged Israel “to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path.”

“If implemented, these plans would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution,” UN assistant secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council.

Feltman also condemned Israel s move to freeze payments of tax and customs fees that it collects for the government of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and said it must transfer the monies “without delay.”

Palestinian negotiator Mohamed Shtayyeh warned that Israeli steps to push through new settler homes were pushing the Palestinians to accelerate their plans to approach the International Criminal Court.

On the other hand, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday toughened his language as he once more urged Israel to halt plans to build new settler homes on occupied Palestinian territory.

“The Middle East peace process is in a deep freeze. The two sides seem more polarized than ever, and a two-state solution is farther away than at any time since the Oslo process began,” Ban warned.

This week, Israel has pushed through plans for 5,158 new settler homes, more than 80 percent of them in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as a capital for a future state.

It has stepped up the building program since November 29, when Palestine won a vote to be accepted as a United Nations non-member state.

“I am deeply concerned by heightened settlement activity in the West Bank, in particular around Jerusalem. This gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state,” Ban complained.

“I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” he said.

“Let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late.”

Earlier, Ban s secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman reaffirmed the view that Israel s settlement building violates international law and could destroy hopes for a negotiated solution.

“If implemented, these plans would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution,” he told the Security Council.

“We strongly urge the Israeli government to heed the international calls to rescind these plans,” Feltman said.

He also condemned Israel s move to freeze payments of tax and customs fees that it collects for Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas  administration.

The action “undermines the integrity of the Palestinian Authority” and “casts doubt on Israeli compliance” with an international protocol on the transfers, Feltman said.

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