PLO official Saeb Erekat called Israel’s plan for a new settler district a “mockery” of international efforts for peace, in a statement released Sunday.
Erekat, who resigned as the chief Palestinian negotiator in February, said the building of 2,6100 homes in Givat Hamatos “physically sever(s) the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”
“Israel is obviously immune to the Quartet’s statements and criticisms,” he said, urging the diplomatic body of Middle East negotiators — the European Union, UN, Russia and US — to hold Israel to account.
The Quartet launched a bid to renew negotiations on Sept. 23, as President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application for Palestine’s full membership of the UN in New York.
The plan for a return to negotiations within the month, and conclusion of a deal by the end of 2012, sought to offset a diplomatic crisis as the US has vowed to veto the Palestinian application at the Security Council.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last Wednesday that the Quartet had invited the PLO and Israel to preliminary talks in Jordan on Oct. 23, while the invitation was subsequently denied by Erekat.
Israel’s bid to build the neighborhood between the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians regard as the capital of their future state, threw further doubt on the push for negotiations. Palestinian officials say they cannot return to peace talks while Israel builds on lands required for a viable Palestinian state.
Some members of the Quartet expressed exasperation with the settlement plans, which were revealed by Israeli group Peace Now on Friday.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called the decision to go ahead with the neighborhood “unacceptable,” saying the plans clash with “Israel’s stated commitment to this process (of peace talks).”
Ashton emphasized in the statement released on Saturday: “Both parties are responsible for the creation of an environment of trust conducive to negotiations.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the plans “run contrary to the Quartet’s call on the parties to refrain from provocations,” a statement on Friday said.
The construction of thousands of homes in the key location in East Jerusalem’s south, “makes of (Givat Hamatos) one of the most damaging settlements in occupied Palestine,” Erekat said on Sunday.
“It will turn the Palestinian town of Beit Safafa into a ghetto. It will sever the connection between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”
The official called on the Quartet and international community to “take serious action if it wishes to see a peace based on two-states.”
“This solution will not be available indefinitely,” he warned.
The Palestinian UN application is currently being assessed by a Security Council committee.