A day after the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestinians to a non-member observer state, Israel announced it had plans to expand existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
"A senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Friday that the decision was made late Thursday night to move forward on "preliminary zoning and planning preparations" for housing units in E1, which would connect the large settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem and therefore make it impossible to connect the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem to Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Israel also authorized the construction of 3,000 housing units in other parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the official said."
The United States responded to the news, saying the move was "counterproductive."
"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, according to Reuters. Vietor added that this makes direct negotiations harder.
This issue is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you listened to Mahmoud Abbas' speech yesterday at the U.N., he made a reference to the 1967 borders. If the Palestinians had their way, those are the borders they would stick to. But since 1967, Israeli settlers have been building homes in what was Palestinian territory in 1967.
This is, of course, a complicated issue, but a good primer comes from the Foundation For Middle East Peace. In this PDF, it documents Israeli settlement expansion from 1967 to 2012. It documents, the end of the 2005 occupation of the Gaza Strip, but the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.
There's a 2009 illustration from Le Monde Diplomatique, on left of this, that lays out the issue. It fancifully shows the West Bank as a "Palestinian Archipelago."
"The map emphasizes the lack of territorial contiguity for Palestinians caused by Israeli settlement," the FMEP writes.
The New York Times reports that Israel did not say whether expanding settlements into this area was a move intended to punish Palestinians for the U.N. resolution.
Update at 7:06 p.m. ET. A Note On The Map:
We should note that the map we included with this post is an artist rendering. Here is another map from the United Nations that reflects the reality on the ground as of September.
Note that the map also shows all the Israeli settlements, as well as the planned and constructed barriers.