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Ban Ki-moon, UN Security Council slam Israel on settlements

The UN chief and every Security Council member other than the US, which remained silent, denounced on Wednesday Israel's plans to expand its settlements.

By Edith M. LedererAssociated Press / December 20, 2012

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man on Tuesday walks in Ramat Shlomo, a religious Jewish settlement in an area of the occupied West Bank Israel annexed to Jerusalem. Israeli officials said they would press on with plans this week to build 6,000 homes for settlers on land claimed by Palestinians, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will hit already faint hopes for a peace accord.

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

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United Nations

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and all members of the Security Council except the United States criticized Israel on Wednesday, demanding an immediate halt to new settlement construction.

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Representatives of the 14 council members stepped to the microphone outside the council chamber after its monthly Mideast briefing to denounce the Israeli settlement plans, which they warned are threatening a two-state settlement with the Palestinians. The move was clearly aimed at intensifying pressure on Israel and demonstrating the isolation of the United States on the issue.

The council president, Morocco's UN Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki, said 14 countries made the statements because efforts to get the council to agree on a resolution or statement had failed.

Separately, Mr. Ban told reporters that Israel's heightened settlement activity "gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state."

"I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path," he said.

"The Middle East peace process is in a deep freeze," he said. "The two sides seem more polarized than ever, and a two-state solution is farther away than at any time since the Oslo process began" in the 1990s.

Peace talks that resulted from the Oslo process have been frozen for four years, in large part because of the settlement issue. The Palestinians refuse to negotiate while Israel expands its settlements, which are now home to more than 500,000 Israelis.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build thousands of homes in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital, in response to the UN General Assembly's decision last month to upgrade the Palestinians' status to a nonmember observer state. Israel opposed UN recognition of a Palestinian state, saying it bypassed peace negotiations.

The United States, Israel's closest Mideast ally, voted against the Palestinian statehood resolution and vetoed a Security Council resolution backed by the 14 other members in February 2011 that would have urged a halt to all settlement building. But the Obama administration is growing increasingly frustrated with recent Israeli announcements on new settlement activity and other issues clearly aimed at punishing the Palestinians for the General Assembly vote.

US officials made no statement Wednesday. But in a rare, stinging rebuke of a close ally, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday accused Israel of engaging in a "pattern of provocative action" that runs counter to the government's commitment to peace. She said settlement activity puts the goal of peace "further at risk"

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