UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that the Middle East peace process is in a “deep freeze” and that the Israelis and Palestinians are seemingly more polarized than ever. The UN chief added that a two-state solution was farther away than at any time since the Oslo peace process began in the early ’90s.

“I am deeply concerned by heightened settlement activity in the West Bank, in particular around Jerusalem. This gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state,” Ban said at an end of year press conference in New York. “I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late.”

Speaking at a Wednesday Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the world cannot afford to be content with the ongoing standstill in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He stressed the urgent need to reach the goal of a two-state solution, warning that it will become almost impossible to achieve such a goal later.

“While the world’s gaze of concern points elsewhere in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drifts dangerously in a direction that must be avoided,” Feltman told the council.

“Both sides maintain their rhetorical commitment to a negotiated peace. However, the creeping realities on the ground and the stalemated diplomacy portray a more worrying reality. Stated intentions to adhere to a two-state solution are not translating into meaningful steps to renewed dialogue on the core issues to be resolved,” he said. Feltman noted that the window of opportunity for taking action to preserve the two-state solution is becoming more and more limited.

Feltman also stated that the violence and other sources of tension coming from both sides were making it difficult to overcome political stalemate. He expressed his concern about settler violence and continued settlement activity in the West Bank, as well as Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

“We must all work to ensure that calm is realized, the closure regime is lifted and the Palestinian divide ends,” the UN political chief said. “Regrettably, there is no new progress to report in ending that divide.”

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods after the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved the construction of 2,612 housing units in Givat Hamatos, an area in East Jerusalem between the neighborhoods of Gilo and Talpiot, beyond the Green Line..

“All Israeli governments have built in Jerusalem, we’re not going to change that,” Netanyahu said during a meeting with Asian ambassadors.