Israel approved the construction of 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, drawing swift criticism from the Palestinians a day after their successful UN recognition bid. The Palestinians strongly condemned the announcement and repeated their refusal to start peace negotiations while building continued. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently poised for re-election and insisting that any negotiations begin without preconditions, prospects for peace appear to be going into deep freeze.
The unusually large building plan came a day after the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem as a non-member observer state, setting off jubilant celebrations among Palestinians. Israel fiercely objected to the UN upgrade, saying peace could only come from direct negotiations and unilateral moves would harm that prospect. The Palestinians said the UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war was an attempt to salvage a possible peace deal and could bolster talks. (Read more Israel and Palestinians stories.)