RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas is due home from New York to a hero’s welcome today, after the United Nations voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member state.
The main official event will be a celebratory rally and a speech by Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters, starting at midday (1000 GMT).
He landed in Amman yesterday and is scheduled to spend the night in Jordan, returning to the Israeli-occupied West Bank today.
On Thursday, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly backed a resolution recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state.
Israel lashed out in response, with an official on Friday telling AFP of plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank including annexed east Jerusalem, without specifying exactly where they were to be located.
Asked to confirm media reports that the measure was a consequence of the UN vote, the official said: “it’s true.”
The reports said that part of the building would be in east Jerusalem but the official said only that “we make no distinction,” between the city’s east and west sides.
Arab east Jerusalem was captured by Israel with the rest of the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by the international community.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its “eternal, indivisible” capital, and does not view construction in the eastern sector as settlement activity.
The latest plan brought international condemnation, led by Israel’s US ally, one of a handful of states to vote against the UN motion.
Meanwhile, France warned Israel yesterday not to go through with a plan for 3,000 settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, arguing it would constitute a serious obstacle to a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“I call on Israeli authorities to refrain from any decision to that effect and to clearly show their willingness to restart (peace) negotiations,” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
“If confirmed, this decision... would create a serious obstacle to a two-state solution, by undermining the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state,” Fabius said.
“It would take away the trust needed to resume dialogue,” he added.
Direct peace talks have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis insisting on no preconditions.
Britain too urged Israel to reverse its decision.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “extremely concerned” by the move, which came in response to a historic UN vote to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state.
“The UK strongly advises the Israeli government to reverse this decision,” Hague said in a statement. “The window for a two-state solution is closing, and we need urgent efforts by the parties and by the international community to achieve a return to negotiations, not actions which will make that harder.”
Earlier, United States denounced Israeli plans for new settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“In light of the announcement, let me reiterate that this administration — like previous administrations — has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
“The most lasting solution to the stalemate in Gaza would be a comprehensive peace between Israel and all Palestinians, led by their legitimate representative, the Palestinian Authority,” she added in an evening speech to an audience in Washington that included Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
“This week’s vote should give all of us pause. All sides need to consider carefully the path ahead,” Clinton said.
“We all need to work together to find a path forward in negotiations that can deliver on the goal of a two-state solution. That remains our goal.
“If and when the parties are ready to enter into direct negotiations to solve the conflict, President (Barack) Obama will be a full partner to them.”