Abbas says new Israeli settlements 'red line'



Ramallah: An Israeli-Palestinian showdown over plans for new Jewish settlements around Jerusalem escalated on Wednesday.

Israel pushed the most contentious of the projects further along in the planning pipeline, and the Palestinian president said he would seek UN Security Council help to block the construction.

Israel is moving ahead despite mounting international condemnation of its settlement plans, some of them activated last week in retaliation for the UN General Assembly's acceptance of a state of Palestine as a non-member observer.

Israel has built dozens of settlements for half a million Israelis since its 1967 capture of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem the lands the UN now says make up the state of Palestine.

The spread and growth of settlements has made an eventual partition, the internationally backed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, increasingly difficult.

The Palestinians are particularly concerned about plans for more than 7,500 apartments and hundreds of hotel rooms in two future settlements, known as E-1 and Givat Hamatos, on the eastern and southern edges of Jerusalem.

Critics say the settlements would cut off traditionally Arab east Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland and destroy hopes for a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

Israel had frozen E-1 plans under pressure from successive US administrations, but it revived them last week after UN recognition of Palestine. Actual construction would be years away.

Today, an Israeli planning committee in the West Bank decided to "deposit" a plan for 3,400 homes there, meaning the project is moving one step further in the approval pipeline, although the final go-ahead for construction has not been given.

Givat Hamatos, where some 4,000 apartments are planned, is also moving forward. A district planning committee is set to discuss the next approval step in mid-December.

PTI