Barak Says West Bank Building a Reaction to Palestinian Upgrade
Approving the construction of 3,000 homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank was a reaction to the Palestinian bid to upgrade its status at the United Nations, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today.
Israel approved the building, including construction in the West Bank area known as E1, less than 24 hours after the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as a non-member observer state on Nov. 29.
Barak denied a report in today’s Haaretz newspaper that he told U.S. officials that the decision to build was primarily due to electoral considerations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party ahead of Jan. 22 elections.
“Barak said in his discussions in the U.S. that the Israeli government has for the past 20 years retained the right to build in E1,” the ministry said in an e-mailed statement. “The defense minister said the construction was not due to electoral considerations, but that during the election period such a reaction should be expected to the UN decision.”
The Palestinian Authority, the UN and the U.S. consider all Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal. The area called E1, east of the capital between Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim settlement, is particularly sensitive. Israeli construction there may cut off Palestinians from their aspirational capital in east Jerusalem in a future peace accord.
Israeli settlements and east Jerusalem construction “are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said on Nov. 30.
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