The Israeli government announced it was accelerating construction of 2,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The move was said to be a response to a decision by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to grant full membership to the Palestinian territories.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Israel's decision was a serious blow to efforts to restart peace negotiations.
"This settlement building program is illegal under international law and is the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements," he said. "I condemn the decision to accelerate such construction."
Hague added that peace efforts needed action that unified, not divided, both sides of the conflict. Washington, too, said the UNESCO move was a blow to the peace process but instead blamed Palestinian leaders for trying to find short cuts to the peace process.
The UNESCO decision, though symbolic, was seen as a victory for Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood. Palestinian leaders said bold action was needed because of long-stalled peace tactics.