Israel has approved the building of 3,000 new settlements and is fast-pacing approvals for 1,000 more in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, a day after the United Nations voted to recognize the sovereignty of a Palestinian state.
The area for the new settlements will be between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim, reports Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Palestinians are opposed to building in the area, known as E1, because they contended it will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
Hamas argued for a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 borders before the U.N. vote, which Israel contends will create a “choke point” of five miles across that could split the country in two during a war.
The long-standing settlement issue was the main reason practically every European country voted in favor of the resolution yesterday. Germany, which was going to vote no, switched her vote at the last moment to abstain because Israel “did not respond in any way to our request to make a gesture on settlements,” as previously reported.
Germany and Great Britain abstained during the U.N. General Assembly vote, and the Czech Republic was the only European country to vote “no” on the historic resolution.
“The move is a first indication of Israeli anger” at the vote, the BBC reports. An Israeli foreign ministry paper published earlier in November described Palestinian efforts to have the vote as “crossing a red line that will require the harshest Israeli response.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first Israeli official to use the “red line” phrase during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last September on Iran’s alleged efforts to build a nuclear weapon.
“There is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs: That’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said, adding a nuclear-armed Iran would be like nuclear-armed Al Queda.
“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” notes the BBC. “The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”