Erekat: Israel's decision on settlements "slap in Kerry's face"
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday the Israeli Government's approval of the construction of more than 660 settlement units in occupied east Jerusalem was tantamount to a slap in the face of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, which explicitly forbids the transfer of population to occupied territories. As of 2010, 504,000 Israelis lived illegally in occupied east Jersualem, outnumbering the 284,000 Palestinians who still live there.
Speaking in Washington, Erekat appealed to the US Administration to support the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations Security Council, which asks the council to recognise a Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip, and calls for a timetable to end the occupation. He said "US recognition of and support for the bill is an investment in a peace deal based on a two-state solution, without eliminating one state at the expense of the other."
Erekat is heading a Palestinian delegation on a visit to the United States for talks on the content of the Palestinian-Arab draft resolution, which the US Administration rejects, considering it a unilateral measure by Palestinians.
In his statement, Erekat said: "Today, I met US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss how we can create conditions for the realization of the two-state solution. At the same time, the Israeli Government decided to approve the construction of more than 660 illegal settlement units in east Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Palestine."
|The occupation government's message is clear: Netanyahu chose settlement activity instead of negotiations.|
On Monday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called an emergency session of the Jerusalem District Planning Committee to endorse a plan for the construction of more than 500 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settler neighborhood in the northwest section of occupied Jerusalem.
Erekat said "the Israeli Government's decision to build more settler units in east Jerusalem, which is currently simmering with tension, is a slap in the face of the US secretary of state, the international community and the Palestinian people, as well as the entire peace process."
He added: "The occupation government's message is clear. Its leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, chose settlement activity instead of negotiations, occupation instead of the two-state solution, and racial discrimination instead of equality and coexistence."
He called on the international community to "shoulder its responsibilities by reining in and punishing Israel for its continued violation of international law and agreements it has signed, not to mention escalating violations against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem through settlement activity, forced displacement, and non-recognition of the Palestinian people's right to perform their religious rituals."
He stressed that "statements that condemn and denounce settlement activity will not stop it, will not protect the Palestinian people, and will not protect the two-state solution."
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.