US Special Envoy Martin Indyk condemned yesterday the building of settlements in the West Bank, saying that they gravely damage negotiations and present great danger to the idea of a Jewish state Israel.
Indyk said the settlements and announcements of new settlements undermine peace talks, in a deliberate move by the supporters of settlements.
In his talk at the Washington Institute for Near East, Indyk said that continuation of building of settlements pushes Israel into an "irreversible binational reality".
He added that the settlements not only undermine Palestinian trust in the negotiations, but pose a danger to "Israel as a Jewish state – and that would be a tragedy of historic proportions."
During the nine months of negotiations, Indyk explained, construction agreements were made to build 4,800 residential units, while 8,000 units were announced, the majority of which were planned in areas not under Israeli control.
The settlement projects caused a delay in negotiations and the US Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for defining borders in order for "every side to have complete freedom in building in their state", Indyk explained.
He blamed the Palestinian Authority for the failure of peace talks, condemning the decision of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to join international organisations and announce the signing of a reconciliation agreement with Hamas.
While Indyk condemned Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat's accusations that Israel was attempting to exclude Abbas, he also condemned Israeli statements which he described as "false and degrading" claiming that Abbas agreed to the settlements being built in the West Bank in return for the release of detainees.
Both sides were warned against taking steps that would lead to escalation and deterioration of relations, adding that what's referred to as the "peace process" is not over, indicating that US President Barack Obama and Kerry are ready to move should the Israeli and Palestinian parties agree.
Indyk said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas do not feel a pressing need to take necessary and painful decisions to reach a peace agreement.
He added that Abbas suggested settlement building be stopped, including in Occupied Jerusalem, for a period of three months whilst the Palestinian State boundaries are drawn up. However, Indyk said that it is unlikely that Netanyahu would agree.
He added that the issue of "recognising Israel as a Jewish state" could be resolved in parallel with other issues in the negotiations.