JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel approved the construction of 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, a government official said today, drawing swift criticism from the Palestinians a day after their successful U.N. recognition bid.
The Palestinians strongly condemned the announcement and repeated their refusal to start peace negotiations while building continued. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently poised for re-election and insisting that any negotiations begin without preconditions, prospects for peace appear to be going into deep freeze.
The unusually large building plan came a day after the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as a nonmember observer state, setting off jubilant celebrations among Palestinians.
Israel fiercely objected to the U.N. upgrade, saying peace could only come from direct negotiations and unilateral moves would harm that prospect. The Palestinians said the U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war was an attempt to salvage a possible peace deal and could bolster talks.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israeli while settlement construction continues in occupied territories, saying Israel's settlement expansion on war-won land was making a partition deal increasingly difficult.