Palestine turns to UN to halt settlements

Senior Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat warned Israel yesterday that Palestine will ask the UN security council to demand a halt to construction of two large Israeli settlements near Jerusalem.

The Palestinians hope to get a binding UN resolution – something that would require the US not to cast a veto in the security council as it did nearly two years ago to shield Israel from censure over its settlements.

The US would have to block the construction through other means if it wanted to avoid a public oucry over its use of a veto, said Mr Erekat.

Israel, already increasingly isolated over its settlement policy, could flout a security council decision but at a high diplomatic cost.

Israel has built dozens of settlements for half a million Israelis since it captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in 1967.

The Palestinians are particularly concerned about plans for more than 7,500 apartments and hundreds of hotel rooms in two future settlements, known as E1 and Givat Hamatos, on the eastern and southern edges of Jerusalem.

The settlements would cut off Arab east Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland and destroy hopes of a viable Palestinian state.

Israel had frozen E1 plans under pressure from successive US administrations, but revived them last week after the UN general assembly accepted Palestine as a non-member observer state.

Meanwhile, Givat Hamatos is moving forward, with a district planning committee to meet in mid-December.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met officials in the PLO and his Fatah movement late on Tuesday and decided to seek security council intervention.

“If the Israelis build E-1 and Givat Hamatos, it means the idea of peace, the idea of a two-state solution, will disappear,” said Mr Erekat.

Israel appeared increasingly isolated after last week’s general assembly vote, facing strident international criticism of its continued construction on war-won land that the world overwhelmingly said belongs to the Palestinians.

More than half a dozen countries have summoned local Israeli ambassadors to object to the latest building plans since the beginning of the week.

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