(JTA) – The United Nations has called on Israel to back down after it advanced the construction of more than 2,300 housing units for West Bank settlements.
“The expansion of settlements has no legal effect and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law,” United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement Wednesday. “By advancing the effective annexation of the West Bank, it undermines the chances for establishing a Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions, as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”
Israeli construction “must cease immediately and completely,” he demanded.
The plan, which marks a significant expansion of Israel’s presence in the disputed territory, has also drawn criticism from the European Union and Great Britain, both of which accused Jerusalem of violating international law and the rights of the Palestinians.
The approvals come a week after the Security Cabinet gave rare approval to more than 700 Palestinian homes in Area C, the part of the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control, but said it also would approve 6,000 homes in Jewish settlements. It is not clear if this week’s approvals are part of that figure.
Observers say the plan for Palestinians could allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to argue that he is making efforts in favour of the White House’s long-awaited peace plan.