The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 3, 2012

Palestinian president returns triumphantly from UN

(Continued)

Israel also continues to restrict access to Gaza. Israel withdrew seven years ago from the coastal strip, and it is now ruled by Hamas Islamic militants who regularly fire rockets at Israel.

Israel, backed by the U.S., campaigned strongly against the statehood measure, accusing the Palestinians of trying to bypass direct peace negotiations, which it said were the only viable path to a Palestinian state.

The Israeli lobbying efforts failed miserably. Just eight other countries voted with Israel, and even its closest allies in Europe, including Germany, Italy, France and Britain, either abstained or voted with the Palestinians.

Israel responded strongly and swiftly. The following day, it said it would start drawing up plans to build thousands of settlement homes, including the first-ever development on a crucial corridor east of Jerusalem.

Although the project is likely years away, if it happens at all, the announcement struck a defiant tone.

Building in the area, known as E1, would sever the link between the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the sector of the holy city the Palestinians claim for a future capital, and cut off the northern part of the West Bank form its southern flank. The Palestinians claim such a scenario would essentially kill any hope for the creation of a viable state.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "grave concern" at the Israeli announcements, saying the new building and reported planning in the E1 area "would represent any almost fatal blow to remaining chances for securing a two-state solution," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"In the interests of peace, any plans for E1 must be rescinded," he said.

"The secretary-general repeats his call on all concerned to resume negotiations and intensify efforts towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace and urges the parties to refrain from provocative actions," Nesirky said.

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