Israel plans to build 3,000 new housing units for
Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli media
reported Friday, a day after the UN General Assembly voted to grant
the Palestinians non-member state status at the world body.
The announcement is likely to further complicated US-led efforts to revive peace negotiations suspended since September 2010.
Left-leaning Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz cited a senior political source in its report, which said construction will also take place in Arab East Jerusalem and the so-called E1 area near the city, which lies between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the plans as an "illegal" action that would make Israel even more diplomatically isolated.
It was a "slap in the face of the whole world, which voted for a Palestinian state," Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, according to the Palestinian official news agency Wafa.
On Thursday at UN headquarters in New York, 138 countries voted in favour of upgrading the Palestinian status, tacitly acknowledging Palestinian statehood. Nine countries including Israel and the United States opposed the resolution, and 41 abstained.
According to Ha'aretz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised the US administration at the beginning of his term not to build in E1, to maintain territorial contiguity between the two sections of the West Bank where the Palestinians want to establish a state.
US State Department spokeswomen Victoria Nuland said Israel's reported settlement plans made it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution.
"We reiterate our long-standing opposition to settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction and announcements," Nuland said.
The US believes direct negotiations are the only way to achieve the goal both sides say they seek, she said.
Israel says the UN decision contravenes past peace agreements and insists that a Palestinian state can only be established through negotiations.
Israeli ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni blamed Netanyahu for the Palestinian decision to go to the UN, saying he had failed to revive peace talks, suspended for more than two years over his refusal to extend a partial moratorium on building in West Bank settlements.
"We are not the ones initiating the move, it is being forced on us, and this is bad," Livni said.
Abbas has vowed to resume talks only if Israel renews the moratorium. Netanyahu says he is willing to restart the process without conditions.
The European Union called on the two sides to use the vote as a springboard for reviving negotiations.
"The issue now is for all parties and actors involved to work towards a settlement of the conflict with renewed purpose and a sense of urgency," Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said in Brussels.
Only one EU country - the Czech Republic - voted with Israel in Thursday's vote. The rest of the bloc either voted in favour or abstained, highlighting their divisions over the Middle East conflict.
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