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MENAFN - Arab News - 05/12/2012

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(MENAFN - Arab News) UNITED NATIONS: The Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit further "war crimes" by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto UN recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable.

In the letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council, the Palestinians said Israel was behaving "in a rogue, hostile and arrogant manner, contravening all principles and rules of international law and reacting with contempt to the will of the international community."

After the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians' status at the world body on Thursday from "observer entity" to "non-member state," Israel said on Friday it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Palestinians want for a future state, along with Gaza.

Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"A clear message must be sent to Israel that all of its illegal policies must be ceased or that it will be held accountable and will have to bear the consequences if its violations and obstruction of peace efforts," Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour wrote in the letter dated Monday.

After winning the UN status upgrade, the Palestinians can now access the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations and where it could complain about Israel.

The Palestinians have said they will not rush to sign up to the International Criminal Court, but have warned that seeking action against Israel in the court would remain an option if Israel continued to build illegal settlements.
Prior to the UN vote, some Western nations unsuccessfully pushed for a Palestinian pledge not to pursue Israel in the ICC.

Israel's government yesterday stood firm in the face of mounting international pressure as it pushed ahead with a swathe of settlement plans seen as threatening the viability of a future Palestinian state.

Israel showed no sign of changing its stance even as Australia became the latest nation to summon the Israeli ambassador to protest plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in a critical area of the West Bank near Jerusalem.
Late on Monday, Israel - which is in the middle of an election campaign - said it would also revive plans for another 1,600 homes in annexed east Jerusalem.

"Are new homes in our capital Jerusalem really more dangerous to the peace process than the Palestinian Authority's refusal to talk peace and to recognize Israel?" tweeted Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel's settlement plans have always raised hackles but Friday's proposals - seen as payback for the Palestinians securing the UN rank of a non-member state a day earlier - are considered particularly contentious as such construction would effectively cut the West Bank in half.

The area in question is a corridor of West Bank land called E1, which runs between the easternmost edge of annexed east Jerusalem and the nearby Maaleh Adumim settlement.

Should construction in E1 go ahead, connecting Jerusalem with Maaleh Adumim, it will make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state almost impossible.

Israeli plans for E1 have been in the works since the early 1990s but have never been implemented due to heavy pressure, largely from the United States.

On Monday, France, Britain, Spain, Denmark and Sweden all summoned the Israeli ambassadors to protest the plans, which also drew criticism from Russia, Germany and Japan.

"The Europeans have removed the kid gloves. We have not seen such an extreme reaction to an Israeli decision in recent years," a senior Israeli diplomat told the top selling Yediot Aharonot.

Other diplomats quoted by the paper were quick to point out that such a coordinated move by so many countries was likely to have been done with the approval of Washington.

Washington has been deeply angered by Netanyahu's decision to move forward construction on E1, which the State Department on Monday described as "particularly sensitive," warning that construction there "would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution." And President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney urged Israel's leadership "to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive."

Yesterday, Australia also summoned the Israeli envoy, with Foreign Minister Bob Carr describing Israel's decision to unfreeze planning in E1 as "especially counter-productive." He also condemned Israel's withholding of tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority.

But Israel has showed no sign of bending as Netanyahu ploughs toward general elections in January, which he is expected to easily win.

"There will be no change in the decision that has been made," a source in Netanyahu's office said on Monday.


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