OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - US Vice President Joe Biden condemned on Wednesday, March 10, Israel’s decision to build 1,600 more settler housing units in Al-Quds (Occupied East Jerusalem) as an obstacle to peace, a position shared by the UN.
"It is incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them," Biden told a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"Yesterday, the decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem undermines that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin as well as produce profitable negotiations."
The Israeli Interior Ministry announced Tuesday, March 9, building 1,600 housing units in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo, together with public facilities and spaces, including a new central park.
The announcement came while Biden was holding talks with Israeli officials to revive the stalled peace talks.
To express his anger, Biden showed up 1.5 hours late for dinner at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence, the White House Press Office said.
The Israeli decision also drew flak from UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
"The secretary-general condemns the approval of plans for the building of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem by the Israeli Ministry of Interior earlier today," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.
"(Ban) reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law."
There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied territory.
The international community considers all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.
Arab countries, which just recently threw support behind indirect peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, were infuriated by the Israeli provocation.
"The insult has reached a point that not a single Arab could accept," Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told reporters in Qatar, the current leader of the Arab summit.
"Israel does not care about anybody, neither the mediator, nor the Palestinians."
Moussa called an urgent meeting late Wednesday of the Arab League permanent delegates to be followed by a ministerial meeting within a week.
Arab foreign ministers agreed on Wednesday, March 3, to back one last round of indirect Palestinian-Israeli talks despite skepticism over Israel's readiness to revive peace efforts, a decision welcomed by the US.
They said the talks should be based on the principles of a 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel normal relations will all Arab counties in return for its full withdrawal from all Arab land and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.
The ministers said if nothing is achieved within four month, they would talk the issue to the UN Security Council.
Israel's continued expansion of settlements is one of the biggest obstacles to the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu rejected calls by US President Barack Obama to freeze settlement building to help resume peace talks.
Under US pressures, he only agreed to a 10-month moratorium of settlement building in the West Bank, except for Al-Quds.
However, the Israeli group Peace Now revealed last month that construction was continuing in quarter of Israeli settlement in the West Bank despite the moratorium.