UNITED NATIONS • Israel should stop building settlements, designating land that Palestinians seek for a future state and denying Palestinian development, the Middle East peace "Quartet" recommended in an eagerly awaited report.
The report by the Quartet countries sponsoring the stalled peace process - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - said the Israeli policy "is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution".
"This raises legitimate questions about Israel's long-term intentions which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state," according to the report.
The day before Israeli elections in March last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch, only to reverse himself days later and re-commit to the objective of a two-state solution.
United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov briefed the UN Security Council on Thursday on the Quartet report, which he told reporters had been submitted to the Quartet members for final approval.
Diplomatic sources said the report carries significant political weight as it has the backing of close Israeli ally, the United States, which has struggled to revive the peace talks amid tensions between Mr Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama. The two leaders were involved in a bitter feud over last year's US-led international nuclear deal with Israel's foe, Iran.
The report said that Israel had taken for its exclusive use some 70 per cent of Area C, which makes up 60 per cent of the occupied West Bank and includes the majority of agricultural lands, natural resources and land reserves.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas that Israel captured in a 1967 war. The last round of peace talks broke down in April 2014, and Israeli- Palestinian violence has surged in recent months.
Yesterday, a Palestinian woman tried to stab an Israeli guard in the West Bank city of Hebron and was shot dead, police said. The incident occurred at a security checkpoint at the site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE