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Abbas: Cancel Building or Peace Talks Over

Abbas delivers ultimatum: cancel 20,000 new Judea Samaria home tenders or else peace talks over. US criticizes buildings as 'illegitimate.'
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 11/12/2013, 10:33 PM

PA Chairman Abbas
PA Chairman Abbas
Flash 90

Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas delivered an ultimatum Tuesday, saying that unless Israel cancels tenders announced earlier Tuesday on 20,000 new homes in Judea and Samaria he would end the ongoing peace talks.

PA negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that he had been given the job of passing the ultimatum to the Arab League as well as the US, EU, Russia, and UN. 

Israel's newly announced building plans elicited a similarly negative response from America. US State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki expressed "deep concern," adding "we were surprised by this announcement and are currently seeking further explanation from the government of Israel."

Psaki furthermore echoed US Secretary of State John Kerry's position that the US deems Jewish building in Judea and Samaria as "illegitimate."

In essence both the PA and US have called for a de facto Jewish building freeze during the ongoing peace talks despite the supposed absence of such preconditions.

Immediately preceding Abbas' ultimatum the PA threatened to to take unilateral actions for UN recognition following left-wing Peace Now's report of a "record" number of construction tenders.

Erakat said earlier on Tuesday night "in the coming hours, the Palestinian leadership is going to consider appealing to the UN Security Council and seeking membership of international organisations if Israel does not reverse its latest settlement moves."

The PA has previously taken unilateral action to receive UN recognition in contradiction to US stipulations that Palestinian membership in international organizations be dependent on a peace agreement with Israel.

In October 2011 the PA was admitted to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), prompting Israel and the US to cease paying contributions to UNESCO and consequently placing it in a financial crisis. On Friday both Israel and the US had their voting rights at UNESCO removed for not paying dues.