Middle East states condemn new Israeli building permits

Saturday, October 16, 2010

CAIRO - Criticism mounted in the Middle East Saturday of new building permits to be issued by Israel for housing units in East Jerusalem, which are widely seen as an obstruction to peace efforts in the region.

The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdel-Rahman al-Attiya, described the decision to issue permits for 238 new units in the neighbourhood - which Palestinians have long eyed as a capital for a future state - as aggressive and provocative.

The decision came amid a stalemate in direct Israeli-Palestinian talks over Tel Aviv’s refusal to continue freezing settlement construction.

“We have stressed that such steps (issuing permits) do not give Israel credibility for any action that would contribute to achieving a comprehensive peace, as it also confirms the lack of seriousness on the Israeli side with regard to the collapsed negotiations,” al-Attiya said.

The statement by the GCC, which represents a political and economic union of six Gulf countries, came on the same day that the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) also condemned the Israeli move.

The OIC, which describes itself as an association of 56 Islamic states promoting Muslim solidarity, said Israel’s actions were “a disregard for the will of the international community” and would “undermine efforts to resume the peace talks.”

For its part, Egypt on Sunday described the controversial new permits as a “negative” move.

“The Israeli side withdraws day after another from its commitments to peace efforts, and it clearly prefers to increase the pace of colonial settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian land than to engage seriously in the negotiation,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said.

The building tenders also had sparked condemnation from both Palestinian and United States officials, with worries mounting that the decision to build new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem could further jeopardize the already uncertain resumption of direct talks.

The Palestinians and their Arab supporters are contemplating turning to the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state without Israel’s approval.

Israel and the Palestinians revived direct peace talks between them in early September, some 17 months after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office at the head of a coalition with mostly right-wing and ultra-right parties.

It was widely reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was reluctant to enter into negotiations with Israel, stating that a precondition for talks would be the halt of all settlement construction in the occupied territories.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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