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UK urges Israel to reverse building decision
By JPOST.COM STAFF
01/12/2012
British foreign secretary "extremely concerned" by construction plan in J'lem, W. Bank; White House: Move makes it harder to resume direct talks.
 
The United Kingdom on Saturday weighed in on a new Israeli settlement expansion plan, urging the government "to reverse the decision."

The UK's Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "extremely concerned" by reports that the government had approved the construction of 3,000 new housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday, in response to the successful Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations General Assembly.

The inner cabinet also decided to give the go ahead for the planning of thousands of housing units in area E1 that connects Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.

"Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties," Hague stated. He warned that if implemented, the plans "would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve."

He also cautioned that the move would undermine the Jewish state's international reputation and sow seeds of doubt about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians. 

Hague stressed that "the window for a two-state solution is closing," and emphasized the need for Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to ramp up efforts to  achieve a return to negotiations. "...Not actions which will make that harder,” he stated pointedly.

Hague's statement echoed a White House reaction to the Israeli decision, delivered on Friday night. The United States called the plan "counterproductive" and said it could make it harder to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and east Jerusalem construction and announcements," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

"We believe these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution," Vietor said. "Direct negotiations remain our goal and we encourage all parties to take steps to make that easier to achieve."

Last week, Washington urged Israel not to allow construction in the area known as E-1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim as a possible response to the Palestinian UN bid.

Building in E-1, which would create contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim to the northeast beyond the Green Line, is something various Israeli governments have long wanted to do, but which US opposition has prevented.

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the building plans on Friday, saying they ran counter to efforts to restart the peace process.

"While the Palestinians are doing everything possible to keep the two-state solution alive, including with our vote in the United Nations, yesterday, the Israeli government is doing everything possible to destroy it," Erekat stated.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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