UN chief takes aim at Israel over new plans for settlements in West Bank Ban renews his appeal for construction freeze, warning that Palestinian frustration is growing under weight of occupation.
UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday criticized Israel's new plans for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and renewed his appeal for a construction freeze to advance peace prospects.
"Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel's settlement enterprise," Ban told a Security Council meeting on the Middle East.
The UN chief spoke after Israel approved plans to build 153 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, which the Peace Now group said was the first construction project approved in the last 18 months.
Last week, Israel declared 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as state land.
"These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tension and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead," said Ban.
The United Nations has branded Israeli settlement expansions illegal, arguing that they are an attempt to undermine plans for a Palestinian state by absorbing land earmarked for the new country.
"The parties must act -- and act now -- to prevent the two-state solution from slipping away forever," said Ban.
He also condemned Palestinian stabbings, vehicle attacks and shootings against Israelis.
Ban added that "Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process."
Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community.
Today, some 380,000 Israelis live in 135 West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 in east Jerusalem.