Jerusalem: Israel has hinted at building 3,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday, according to a BBC news report.
The development came in response to the Palestinians` historic success in being recognised as a non-member state at the United Nations.
During the landmark vote in New York yesterday, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly backed a resolution recognising Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state.
The news report added that the decision was a major diplomatic coup for the Palestinians but a stinging slap in the face for Israel, which had lobbied hard to prevent it, arguing that it would cripple peace hopes.
Some of the construction would be in a highly contentious area of the West Bank known as E1, a corridor that runs between the easternmost edge of annexed Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim settlement, as per the BBC report.
Palestinians bitterly oppose the E1 project, as it effectively cuts the occupied West Bank in two north to south and makes the creation of a viable Palestinian state highly problematic.
The Palestinians want annexed east Jerusalem as capital of their promised, future state and vigorously oppose expansion plans for Maaleh Adumim, which lies five kilometres from the city`s eastern edge.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the UN vote as "a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground," and said peace could only be found in "direct negotiations... And not in one-sided UN decisions."
But he also warned that by going to the UN, the Palestinians had "violated" previous agreements with Israel, such as the 1993 Oslo Accords, and that his country would "act accordingly."
A report on the Ynet news website said the decision to connect Maaleh Adumim with Jerusalem had been taken by Netanyahu`s inner circle, the Forum of Nine, yesterday.
Earlier today, Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom had mooted the idea of building in E1 as a response to the UN move, which he said was a violation of agreements the Palestinians had signed with Israel, such as the Oslo Accords.
"The violation of these agreements... Means Israel can also take unilateral initiatives such as applying Israeli sovereignty in the territories or connecting Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem," he told public radio.
Linking the settlement and the city is an idea long espoused by hardliners within Netanyahu`s ruling rightwing Likud party but strongly opposed by Washington.
Israel has long feared that if the Palestinians won the rank of a UN non-member state, they could pursue the Jewish state for war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague -- particularly over its settlement building.
With PTI inputs