UNITED NATIONS Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and all members of the U.N. Security Council except the United States are criticizing Israel and demanding an immediate halt to new settlement construction.
Representatives of the 14 council members stepped to the microphone outside the chamber after their monthly Mideast briefing Wednesday to denounce the Israeli settlement plans, which they warned is threatening a two-state peace settlement with the Palestinians. The council president said they did so because efforts to get all 15 members to agree on a resolution or statement had failed, almost certainly because of U.S. opposition.
Separately, Ban told reporters that Israel's heightened settlement activity "gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state." He urged Israel "to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path."
The Jerusalem planning committee recently approved 2,612 housing units in the Givat Hamatos settlement on Jerusalem's southern rim, City Councilor Pepe Alalu told The Associated Press. The area, inhabited by a few dozen Jewish and Palestinian families who live in rundown trailers, would be the first new settlement to be built in east Jerusalem since 1997. Alalu, who voted against the project, said construction could begin in a year.
The project is part of a series of building plans that have drawn worldwide rebuke, including from the United States. Critics consider Givat Hamatos a particularly problematic area to develop because, along with another contentious plan in an area known as E-1, it would hinder access to east Jerusalem from the West Bank. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The building push comes shortly after the United Nations General Assemblythe Palestinians' status to a non-member observer.