US, UN, EU condemn ‘accelerated’ W. Bank Jewish building

Washington 'deeply disappointed' by Israeli response to Palestinian's acceptance to UNESCO; Ashton: We call on Israel to reverse decision.

Settlement Construction 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Settlement Construction 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United States along with the international community on Wednesday condemned Israel’s decision to retaliate against the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood moves by accelerating Jewish building in east Jerusalem and in West Bank settlements.
The measure was a direct response to Monday’s decision by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to accept the PA’s bid to become its 195th member.
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The US was among 14 countries including Israel that voted against Palestinian membership in UNESCO. Still, Washington told Jerusalem it was wrong to take steps against the Palestinians as a result.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing that the move did not advance the goal of bridging differences between Israelis and the Palestinians. He added that it was deeply disappointing.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “We continue to make our opposition to this clear.”
She added that “unilateral actions by either parties work against efforts to resume direct negotiations.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on both Israel and the Palestinians to “to refrain from provocations and [to] work with the Quartet towards serious proposals on borders and security in the coming three months, in the context of a shared commitment to resume direct negotiations.”
He added that the “trajectory of developments” between Israel and the Palestinians worried him.
On Tuesday, the inner cabinet of eight ministers announced that it had approved 1,650 homes in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem as well in 327 homes in two West Bank settlements, 277 in Efrat and 50 in Ma’aleh Adumim. The inner cabinet also “temporarily suspended” the transfer of tax and import tariff revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA.
But the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, “Israeli settlement activity is illegal under international law, including [in] east Jerusalem, and an obstacle to peace.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the renewed Jewish building over the pre-1967 Green Line was a “serious blow to the Quartet’s efforts to restart peace negotiations.”
He said that it was “the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements. I condemn the decision.”
Hague said he was also concerned about the inner cabinet’s decision to suspend the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.
“This is in no one’s interests, least of all Israel’s, since it has direct implications for the Palestinian Authority’s ability to maintain effective security in the West Bank,” he said.
“We need to see steps towards peace, not actions that divide and isolate the parties further and undermine the prospects for negotiations.”
His country was among the 52 nations that abstained in the UNESCO vote on Monday.
An Israeli official brushed aside the European leaders’ comments.
“If some in Europe are critical of Israel’s decision, they could have thought more carefully about their own decision-making process concerning the vote at UNESCO.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose country had opposed Palestinian membership in UNESCO, said that both Israel through its settlement policy and the PA through its unilateral pursuit of statehood were making it difficult to resume peace talks.
Reuters contributed to this report.