UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Israel’s decision to accelerate planning for some 1,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem raises serious doubts about the Israeli commitment to peace with the Palestinians, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday.
An Israeli government official said on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will expedite preparations for new settler homes in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli plans, along with Palestinian concerns about Jerusalem’s holy sites, prompted the Palestinians to ask Jordan to request an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting in the hope that its 15 members would condemn recent Israeli actions. Diplomats said the council was unlikely to take any action.
“If pursued, these plans would once again raise grave doubts about Israel’s commitment to achieving durable peace with the Palestinians as the new settlements threaten the very viability of the future State of Palestine,” U.N. Under Secretary-General for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the meeting.
Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour said Israeli settlements were eroding the future Palestinian state, of which East Jerusalem is to be the capital.
“Every day the territorial contiguity and integrity of our state is being fragmented and undermined by such illegal actions, seriously diminishing the viability of the two-state solution,” he said.
He also complained about Israel’s approach to Jerusalem, including holy sites like the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa mosque.
“Jerusalem is under siege,” Mansour said, adding that Israeli provocations at al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques were “threatening to incite yet another cycle of violence.”
Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor dismissed Mansour’s criticisms, telling council members that the Palestinians were propagating “half truths, myths and outright lies about Israel.”
“I‘m here to convey one simple truth: The people of Israel are not occupiers and we’re not settlers,” he said. “Israel is our home and Jerusalem is the eternal capital of our sovereign state.”
He held up a Bible, which he said detailed 4,000 years of Jewish history in Israel.
Prosor also rejected criticism of Israeli settlements.
“It says a great deal that the international community is outraged when Jews build homes in Jerusalem but doesn’t say a word when Jews are murdered for living in Jerusalem,” he said. “The hypocrisy is appalling.”
Israel’s principal ally and protector on the Security Council, the United States, has criticized the settlements as provocative and illegitimate.
Since the end of the Gaza war in August, tension has risen steadily in the eastern, Arab side of Jerusalem, with almost nightly clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and petrol bombs.
A major focus of anger is the increasing number of visits by Orthodox Jews, including some politicians, to the raised marble-and-stone compound that houses the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
Netanyahu has promised repeatedly that the “status quo” governing Jerusalem’s holiest site is not about to change, though his reassurances have not quelled Palestinian fears.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Cynthia Osterman