News / Middle East

UN Chief: Israel's West Bank Housing Plan is 'Almost Fatal Blow' to Peace

A Palestinian labourer works at a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem December 2, 2012.
A Palestinian labourer works at a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem December 2, 2012.
Robert Berger, Mark SnowissMichael Lipin
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly criticized an Israeli plan to develop a disputed area near East Jerusalem, calling it an "almost fatal blow" to chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians, who claim the land for an independent state.

In a statement issued Sunday, Ban said the potential construction of thousands of Jewish homes in the barren area that Israel refers to as E-1 "risks completely cutting off" East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. 

Israel's Retaliatory Moves

Israel authorized the start of E-1 planning on Friday, in retaliation for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas securing an upgrade in the U.N. status of his Palestinian Authority to a non-member observer state. The U.N. General Assembly approved the upgrade on Thursday by a vote of 138 in favor to nine against with 41 abstentions. The United States joined Israel in opposition.

At a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu rejected the status upgrade as a unilateral move that violates Palestinian agreements to negotiate with Israel over the creation of an independent state. He also vowed to continue building in Israeli-occupied parts of Jerusalem and "all places that appear on Israel's map of strategic interests." His government approved the construction of 3,000 homes in disputed areas on Friday.

In another retaliatory move Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet said it will withhold $120 million in tax revenue that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. It said those funds will be used instead to pay off Palestinian debts to Israel's state-run electricity company and other firms. Palestinian officials denounced the move as illegal.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent state that includes the West Bank. Israel has occupied both areas since the 1967 Mideast war and considers Jerusalem's eastern sector to be part of a "united" Israeli capital. The E-1 project would involve linking East Jerusalem with Israel's main West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim. 

Ban to Israel: Rescind E-1 Plans

In his statement, Ban said Israeli settlements in occupied areas are "illegal under international law," and he called on Israel to "rescind" any plans for E-1. Israel claims historic and biblical ties to East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.

Palestinians say E-1 would make it impossible for them to form a contiguous state because of its location in the center of the West Bank. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday the project would "set back the cause of a negotiated peace," while Britain and France urged Israel to scrap it.

Actual construction could be years away, if it takes place at all. Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Attias told Army Radio on Sunday, "There is no decision to build. There is a decision to plan. You can't build an apartment without planning."

Ban also repeated his call on Israelis and Palestinians to "refrain from provocative actions." Earlier, he described Palestinian President Abbas' status upgrade at the U.N. General Assembly as an "important" vote that "underscores the urgency" of resuming peace talks that have been frozen for years. 

Abbas Makes Triumphant Return

Abbas received a hero's welcome in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, as he returned from his U.N. General Assembly victory. He proclaimed that the Palestinians "now have a state," as he addressed a gathering of about 5,000 people to wild applause.

"Yes to the state of Palestine, yes to the freedom of Palestine, yes to the independence of Palestine, no to aggression, settlements and occupation," Abbas declared.

He said his next goal is to achieve national unity among Palestinians, who have been ruled by rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza since Hamas militants seized power in Gaza in 2007. The crowd responded by chanting for an "end to the division." 

Mark Snowiss and Michael Lipin contributed from Washington.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

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Comments page of 2
by: Jeff from: USA
December 03, 2012 2:33 PM
Hope y'all are having fun venting. The Israelis have decided to impose their own version of a two state solution. The war is over. The West Bank Palestinians are not a serious threat to Israel since the separation barrier was created. The Gazans survive only because Israel chooses to let them survive. The Israelis have a thriving economy, a powerful military, and nuclear weapons. Their heritage, and particularly the "never again" mentality that the Holocaust hammered into the brains of every Jewish peorson in the world, makes them the most likely country in the world to take out all of us if their existence is threatened. They do not bluff.

There is already a Palestinian state on the West Bank for all practical purposes. Congrats! So what. When the West Bank Palestinians grow up, they will recognize that no big strong "other" is going to swoop in and turn their unrealistic fantasies into reality. They will never get Jerusakem. They will never kill all the Jews. Then they will go about building their piece of land into a place of prosperity, and when that happens, we will still have to wait another 3 or 4 generations for old memories to die out. And then there will be peace. The Gazans might well do the same, or just merge into Egypt. Or maybe they will hurl one rocket too many into Israel and they will all die. Everything else is just meaningless static because the future described above is dictated by the facts on the ground.

by: JohnWV from: USA
December 03, 2012 1:41 PM
Besieged Palestinian Gaza is an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly...and, surprise, surprise - they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment? Because the hostility you provoke is the whole point. Now under attack you can cast yourself as the victim, and call out the helicopter gunships and the F16 attack fighters and the heavy tanks and the guided missiles, and destroy yet more of the pathetic remains of infrastructure that the Palestinian state still has left. And then you can point to it as a hopeless case, unfit to govern itself, a terrorist state, a state with which you couldn't possibly reach an accommodation. And then you can carry on with business as usual, quietly stealing their homeland.

by: JohnWV from: USA
December 03, 2012 1:39 PM
Since Imperial Rome, it has happened again and again. Jews enraged their neighbors and repeatedly suffered disastrous pogroms. Excesses of Weimar Germany's monied Jewish minority led to the most recent which Israel promotes, actually advertises, as justification for its apartheid malevolence. “Never again” is lost on Netanyahu's Israel. Blind to history, its paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and supremacist empire in, and beyond, the Mideast ensures “again” on a far grander scale. Abandoning and aggressively isolating the Jewish state would force it abandon its grandiose aspirations and thereby avert its destruction. There is no greater or kinder support that America could render to both the Mideast and its “inseparable Mideast ally.”

by: Travis from: Houston
December 03, 2012 2:21 AM
Not all americans support the zionists in israel. I hate how they use my country as a shield for their criminal acts.

by: angelina from: las vegas
December 02, 2012 6:36 PM
ALL Israeli leaders should be punished given life long lesson for their war mongering policies and destroying the peace of middle east since long.

by: David Evans from: Vancouver WA. US
December 02, 2012 5:55 PM
Middle East conflict 101: The Conflict isn't complicated. It isn't about non-existent ancient religious or ethnic rivalries, as we are told by Zionist propagandists who intentially muddy the water with such lies.

The Conflict is as simple as any other armed robbery:

Israelis invaded Palestine. Palestinians didn't invade Israel. Palestinians were already there. An army of invading Jewish immigrants drove a million people from their homes in wars of aggression in 1948 and 1967. These invaders have been brutally and illegally imprisoning those who have been forced from their homes already, into walled concentration camps and periodically bombing and shelling them to death. Take a good look at these maps. THIS, and nothing else, is the reason for ALL current violence in the Middle East:

Truman’s generals and diplomats warned him that a Zionist Jewish state, composed of converted Jews with no legitimate claim to land they'd stolen would be a huge burden on the US in the future. They were prophetic.

For more information on this conflict:

David Evans
Former Sergeant USMC
Veterans For Peace Member
Palestine and Middle east Working Group
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 03, 2012 8:20 PM
What you describe sounds like an extremely tame and gentle version of the genocide we waged against Native Americans.

So, you are leaving Vancouver, Washington and emigrating back to Europe or England right away, are you not? Have you found an Indian family to donate your house to? I hope you also intend to pay reparations to them, as well as to the descendents of black slaves who built much of this country you've been using and enjoying without compensation. When you've made good on what you owe for the armed theft of the land and resources that you are living on; for the Native American genocide; and for black slavery and Jim Crow...then you may prescribe for others how they remedy their nation's "armed theft."

Having said that, I do believe Israel has not been forthcoming lately in the pursuit of a negotiated statehood for Palestine, and while claiming it supports a two state solution, has not been acting in good faith to achieve it.
In Response

by: V from: Colorado
December 03, 2012 6:43 PM
Wake up David -- Every Country in the WORLD was at some point taken from someone else, or did you think the American Indians that lived in Wash were treated with warm fuzzy blankets by the European Settlers. The reality is Israel is the only country that hasn't just gone in and Killed everyone, and for that -- they have suffered greatly -- The only difference in the history lesson here is that we are all watching the take over on TV. Isreal should take over the West Bank and Gaza completely and just be done with the whole thing.

by: Noah Olatunde from: Lagos,Nigeria
December 02, 2012 5:19 PM
From Lagos,Nigeria
if Natayahu claimes that the Jewish race were superior to the Palestines..he may be trailing the parts of perditions.Similar notion was held by Adolf Hitler who claimed the aryan race were more superior than other race before the great holocoust of 6millions jew.Natayahu should have focus on threatening Germany where Hilter represents during the Nazi age and not Palestine.its disgusting that Israel stil lookup to Germany as a mutual partner..
Arab league countries need to charge Saudi Arabia to change her satation policy towards other Arab countries instead of serving as a puppet to the interest of US allies in middle-east against her Arab counterparte

by: a55kika from: Manchester
December 02, 2012 3:42 PM
The Zionist have no respect for the international community. Palestine is officially a state. The have won 138-9 !!! The world is in the side of Palestine. The Palestinians deserve their land back. This decision made by the UN is not a "unilateral act" as Nutty Yahoo claims it to be. This is the most multilateral act possible. 192 countries were involved in the decision making. Right after this UN bid Nutty Yahoo suddenly decides to build 3000 more houses on Palestinians territories. This is in clear violation of several laws but Nutty doesn't give a hoot. The world loves and supports Palestine. We will not allow this Palestinian holocaust! We do not want Apartheid states! We want Justice and Peace.

by: seema from: delhi
December 02, 2012 3:35 PM
The world has given their decree .more than 93 percent said yes to palestine state .

Now if the US is a democratic country .they should obey the law .other wise world wide u will ruin ur image .. Also I am an Indian .Israel r playing with th world n controling newpaper n channels n giving wrong information to the people that's y they target new repoter . every country shld snap their ties with ruthless government like israel
In Response

by: John Linscott from: Denver, Colorado
December 03, 2012 12:20 AM
LOL nobody said yes to a palestine state (whatever that is). There will never be a separate palestine country. Like the other guys said, palestine includes all of israel. the Arabs want to pretend it's just them but that's not how it works.

Just you wait. The terrorists will fire missiles, and israel will kill them, and the only country they will have is what they have now - far more than what they deserve.

If they can learn to stop being terrorists and work together, well then a two-state solution can happen. Oh they still won't ever get j'lem. It didn't belong to them ever, and it won't belong to them ever.


by: Mark Parity from: Arizona US
December 02, 2012 2:58 PM
I know this is a complicated topic, so I'll write slowly. There is one city called "Jerusalem". It's not a divided city. It is the capital of Israel. If this concept is something you can't get used to -- and haven't since 1967 -- that's ok. The world can wait while you do.

The territory formerly known as Palestine includes all of today's Israel, the Gaza strip, and the west bank of the Jordan river. ALL of this is Palestine, and all its residents are legitimate Palestinians. Yes, this includes Jews, Israelis, and Arabs. To deny the Israelis their claim to Palestine and to somehow magically deed it to the terrorist few who rain missiles on them is to reward the terrorists, not the civilians who suffer from them daily.

There will never be a "palestinian" flag (whatever that is) raised over Jerusalem. Jerusalem will never be divided, as Berlin no longer is.

To attain peace, both sides must desire it and work toward it. The terrorists which lead the arabs in the Gaza Strip have shown they have no peaceful intentions. The ineffectual Fatah and their desire to do an end-run around the peace process and be "gifted" a state by the UN are equally useless.

Stay tuned. There will be peace one day. Not in your lifetime.

In Response

by: b Lynch from: Australia
December 02, 2012 4:19 PM
If the Gaza Strip and the palestinian Territories are not part of Isreal
then why object to these 'territories being an independant country?

If the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Territories are part of Israel,
then why can Palestinians not vote on Israeli federal elections?

Israel has to be one or the other; otherwise it can be accused of Apartheid ala South Africa in the 60s.
In Response

by: Jon Ryberg from: Baltimore US
December 02, 2012 3:43 PM
I will type slowly so that I cut down on type-os.

The area between the Jordan River and the Mediteranean Sea is the home of a large group of people. In 1979, the State of Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt. At that time Israel committed to end the occupation of Palestinian Arabs within five years. It is now 33 years later and they are still under the occupation. Israel negotiates but builds settlements and moves it's citizens into the occupied area in direct violation of Article IV of the Geneva Conventions. Israel has ignored repeated resolutions in the UN to stop the illegal settlement activity but all that pass are of course ones that come from the General Assembly because the US vetoes any UN Security Council resolution that even criticizes the state of Israel.

To attain peace with ALL of its Arab neighbors, Israel only has to stop the illegal settlement activity and accept the Arab Peace Initiative which was offered to them in 2002 and again in 2007. Israel prefers to keep expanding the settlments and prolonging the occupation. You are probably right that there will not be peace but it is because the current government of Israel will not take the peace offered them.
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