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The new construction plans for East Jerusalem over the Green Line are paving the way to a collision with the Palestinian Authority and the West, first and foremost with the United States. The plan approving 1,500 apartments in Ramat Shlomo had already generated a serious crisis in relations with the United States two years ago, and the decision to build in area E-1 has led to international condemnation. It seems that a new crisis is at our doorstep. The plans, which include massive construction in south Jerusalem, seem less for the purpose of solving housing problems and more in order to thwart any attempt to divide Jerusalem in the future and to foil a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Construction across the Green Line, in Jerusalem or in the territories, is political and ideological in nature and goes against international conventions. In the past, such construction proudly called itself "an appropriate Zionist response" when it served as retaliation for acts of terror. Now it is construction that punishes the Palestinian Authority for daring to ask, and to receive, international recognition of Palestine as a non-member state in the United Nations. Such punitive action may soothe the frustration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues on the right, who failed in the international arena. But it is akin to self-inflicted punishment. Israel received a blow in the United Nations not only because of that body's identification with the Palestinians, but also, and perhaps mainly, because of its policy in the territories, which has sanctified settlements as the "foundation stone of our existence."

Punishment through construction is a double-edged sword. Although for years the West, including the United States, ignored construction in the territories, the past two years have seen a change in their attitude toward such construction. Now, not only do human rights groups and pro-Palestinian organizations call for a boycott against Israel; countries considered friendly to Israel are also willing to consider such punitive action against the Jewish state. Construction in the territories out of pure spite will certainly not prevent us from colliding with the iceberg hovering over us.

The madness of construction in the territories is blinding the government to the threat to Israel and its citizens that the loss of our country's few friends represents. It is not too late to come to our senses and freeze these construction plans.