West Bank settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Jordan Valley..
(photo credit: REUTERS/ Baz Ratner)
Israeli diplomatic officials slammed the EU and UN Saturday night for condemning plans for new settlement construction, but were silent in the face of maximalist Palestinian positions they say are jeopardizing the diplomatic process.
"Are they really putting their fingers on the real problem with these automatic responses," one official said. He questioned why the EU did not see fit to criticize Fatah for organizing a rally Thursday in Ramallah when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returned from Washington that "celebrated rejectionism, that celebrated 'not one inch,' a position that makes peace impossible."
The official said that "a few more housing units inside the settlement blocks will not change the final maps of peace, but it should be clear that the Palestinian refusal to show any flexibility in the talks is preventing things from moving forward."
Channel 2 reported Friday evening that in his meeting last week with US President Barack Obama, Abbas rejected the document US Secretary of State John Kerry was preparing to continue talks with Israel, and said that he would not recognize Israel as the nation sate of the Jewish people, not give up the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, nor agree that an agreement would constitute an end to all claims against Israel.
Last week minutes from a February meeting of the Civil Administration's Higher Planning Council were published on the Interior Ministry website which discussed the bureaucratic steps underway to move forward plans for some 2,278 new housing units
in Ariel, Alei Zahav, Beit El, Shvut Rachel, Shave Shomron, and Almog.
Plans for 38 homes in Kochav Ya'acov and 56 in Givat Ze'ev were also deposited last week.
Of the total 2,372 units, 783 are beyond the security barrier, including those in Beit EL, Kochav Ya'acov, Almog, Shvut Rachel and Shavei Shomorn.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement saying she was "deeply disappointed by the Israeli plans to expand settlements."
"Any unilateral action prejudging final status issues threatens the current peace negotiations and, as a consequence, the two-state solution," she said. "The 28 Foreign Ministers of the member states of the European Union unanimously warned against actions that undermine the current negotiations and deplored Israel's continuous expansion of settlements. I urge the Israeli authorities to reconsider their plans and to reverse their decision."
According to Ashton, "the current peace talks represent a unique opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians. A final peace agreement will bring huge benefits to both peoples. Such a historic opportunity should not be squandered."
The UN's special Mideast envoy Robert Serry also condemned the plans, issuing a statement saying he was "gravely concerned." Saying that settlements "cannot be reconciled with Israel's stated intention to pursue a two-state solution," Serry said that "the development is particularly unhelpful against the backdrop of a volatile situation on the ground and as US-led peace negotiations have reached a critical stage."Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report