Israel OKs New Jewish Settlements in Palestinian Territory

Posted November 1st, 2011 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Israel's prime minister has ordered the building of 2,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, one day after UNESCO recognized the Palestinian Authority's political status and granted it full membership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday said the accelerated construction includes settlements he believes would remain in Israel following any future peace accord.

A senior Israeli official said 1,650 of the new homes would be in East Jerusalem. The rest will be in Efrat and Maale Adumin, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The official also said the Israeli Cabinet had decided to temporarily halt money transfers to the Palestinian Authority. He acknowledged the moves were a punitive response to what he called recent unilateral actions by the Palestinians.

Reuters quotes a spokesman for the Palestinian presidency as saying the planned settlement building amounts to speeding up “the destruction of the peace process.” He also described Israel's decision to temporarily halt fund transfers as “inhumane.”

Earlier Tuesday, Palestinian officials said they will follow up their victory in gaining recognition by the U.N. cultural agency with applications for membership in 16 other U.N. organizations.

Members of the Palestinian U.N. delegation in Geneva said UNESCO's vote approving Palestinian membership has “opened the door” to similar bids at other U.N. agencies based in the Swiss city.

The officials said they are studying requirements for accession to the agencies but did not name them or say when they plan to submit membership applications.

The United States criticized UNESCO's move as “premature,” saying it undermines the international community's goal of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan.

Washington also suspended a $60 million contribution to the agency planned for this month because of a longstanding U.S. law that prohibits American support for any U.N. body that admits Palestine as a full member.

UNESCO draws nearly a quarter of its funding from the United States. It is the first U.N. agency the Palestinians have sought to join since President Mahmoud Abbas applied to the United Nations for full membership of an independent Palestine in September.

In another development, Palestinian communications minister Mashour Abu Daqqa says hackers disrupted Palestinian Internet services throughout the West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday. Daqqa says “all” Palestinian IP addresses were exposed to the coordinated attack, which he believes had the support of a

foreign government.