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US 'lack of reaction' emboldens Israel

Nov. 30, 2012 11:38 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 2, 2012 12:09 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's plans to build 3,000 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank reflects America's "lack of reaction" to unilateral moves, the PLO's envoy in Washington said Friday.

Ambassador Maen Areikat was responding to the announcement by Israeli government officials of plans to build 3,000 new settlement units and expedite building in the so-called E-1 area of the occupied West Bank, a day after Palestine was admitted to the UN in a vote opposed by the US and Israel.

The announcement “represents a challenge for those who are attacking Palestine’s recent effort at the United Nations,” Areikat said in a statement.

“It is exactly the lack of reaction on behalf of the US, and others in the international community, to continued Israel violations of previous agreements that pushed us to seek intervention at the UN.

"It is imperative that the world, especially the US, take a principled and balanced approach to compel Israel to abide by international law and its obligations.”

In Washington, the White House said the new Israeli settlement expansion plan was "counterproductive" and could make it harder to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

"We believe these actions are counterproductive and make it arder resume direct negotiations or achieve of a two state solution," Vietor said. "Direct negotiations remain our goal and we encourage all parties to take steps to make that easier to achieve."

Earlier an Israeli official announced plans to build thousands of new homes for its settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, defying a UN vote that implicitly recognized Palestinian statehood there.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government had authorized the construction of 3,000 housing units.

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Washington-based Jerusalem Fund and a columnist at The Daily Beast news site, said the plans fit an Israeli pattern.

"For the past 45 years, the geographic patterns of Israel's colonial project surrounding Jerusalem have made it clear that its intentions did not match its rhetoric regarding a desire for a two-state solution," Munayyer said in a statement.

"Ironically, the Palestinians went to the UN because they saw no benefit in a 'Peace Process' in which the US failed to restrain Israeli colonialism. Today, the response from the US has been to demand Palestinians return to these negotiations and the response from Israel has been continued land grabs. Both Israel and the US could not have done more to support the Palestinians' rationale."

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