The U.S. could avoid an uncomfortable choice by pressuring Israel to back down so things don’t come to a Security Council showdown, said Palestinian official Saeb Erekat.
‘‘If the U.S. can stop the Israelis without the Security Council, they should do it,’’ he said. ‘‘They (the Americans) cannot stop us and use the veto against people trying to save the peace process.’’
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Palestinians should resume talks with Israel instead of turning to the U.N. ‘‘Here is where it’s at, not in New York,’’ Palmor said. ‘‘If they have something to say, let them say it to us, directly.’’
Israel has moved more than 500,000 Jews into settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, complicating any future partition of the land into two states. The Palestinians oppose all settlement construction, saying it prejudices the outcome of peace talks, which stalled four years ago over settlements.
The Palestinians are particularly concerned about plans to build thousands of apartments in E-1 and a separate area called Givat Hamatos, on Jerusalem’s eastern and southern edges.
Critics say the settlements would cut off traditionally Arab east Jerusalem from the West Bank and destroy hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as a shared capital. E-1 would also drive a deep wedge between the northern and southern West Bank.
Israel had frozen plans to develop E-1 as an expansion of Maaleh Adumim, its second-largest West Bank settlement, under intense pressure from successive U.S. administrations — but not before erecting a hulking police station and carving roads and terraces into the rocky terrain just east of Jerusalem.
While goats and sheep grazed on an empty hill there, plans for building 3,000 homes in the strategic corridor were presented for the first time Wednesday to the military committee that oversees planning in the West Bank. Military spokesman Guy Inbar said the meeting was a preliminary step and that construction could be years away.
A separate committee is to meet in mid-December to discuss advanced plans to build 2,600 apartments in Givat Hamatos, another mountainous stretch of land where a few dozen Jewish and Palestinian families live in rundown trailers with only the barest of services. It would be the first new Israeli settlement in east Jerusalem since 1997, also under Netanyahu.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem after capturing it 45 years ago, and claims the area as part of its capital. While the annexation is not internationally recognized, Netanyahu has said he will never agree to divide the holy city.
Skeptics have questioned whether Netanyahu actually intends to develop E-1, or is playing to hard-liners ahead of Israel’s Jan. 22 election.
Attorney Daniel Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem construction, called the Givat Hamatos project a ‘‘game-changer.’’ Flanked by two other settlements in the southern part of east Jerusalem, it would create a string of settlements between the West Bank and Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem.
If E-1 ‘‘is a fatal heart attack’’ to peacemaking, then homes on Givat Hamatos would be ‘‘the silent killer, high blood pressure. They kill you just as dead,’’ Seidemann said Wednesday.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.