Palestinians say it’s time to recognise their state


JERUSALEM: Israel’s plan to build new homes on occupied land should be countered by international recognition of a Palestinian state, the chief Palestinian negotiator said on Tuesday.
Raising the stakes in the deadlock over stalled peace talks, Saeb Erekat said it was clear from the latest announcement of building plans that Israel wants settlements, not peace.
“Israeli unilateralism is a call for immediate international recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said in a statement.
The world paid little attention when the late Yasser Arafat declared a Palestinian state in 1988. But political winds have shifted and Israel today is seriously concerned that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas might win recognition.
Abbas has floated the idea of “going to the United Nations” to declare statehood as one option if peace talks collapse, but only after first seeking support from Washington.
Israel on Monday announced plans to build 1,300 new housing units on occupied land near Jerusalem, and on Tuesday news reports said a further 800 units were planned in the big settlement of Ariel in the northern West Bank.
The building plans were made public as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the United States to discuss ways to revive Middle East peace talks that have stalled over the issue of settlement building.
The United States said it was “deeply disappointed” by Monday’s news of the housing project which is “counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties”, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expected to raise the issue in a meeting with Netanyahu in New York on Thursday. European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the plan “contradicts the efforts by the international community to resume direct negotiations and the decision should be reversed”.
\She added: “Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.”
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in September almost as soon as they had begun, after Netanyahu rebuffed Palestinian demands to extend a partial freeze on West Bank settlement building.
Noting that the controversial housing announcement was made while Netanyahu was in the United States, Crowley said: “It could very well be that somebody in Israel has made this known in order to embarrass the prime minister and to undermine the process”.
Washington was outraged in March when settlement housing plans were announced with what looked like defiant timing as US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Jerusalem.