Netanyahu brushes off world condemnation of settlement plans

Sun Dec 2, 2012 9:23am EST

Related Topics

* Expansion plan draws criticism from U.S. and Europe

* Move seen as retaliation for Palestinian U.N. bid

* Netanyahu's cabinet formally rejects U.N. vote

By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday brushed off world condemnation of Israel's plans to expand Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood.

"We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel's strategic interests," a defiant Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.

In another blow to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, Israel also announced it was withholding Palestinian tax revenues this month worth about $100 million because of a $200 million PA debt to the Israeli Electric Corporation.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said confiscation of the funds due the cash-strapped Authority and vital to meeting its payroll, was "piracy and theft".

Stung by the U.N. General Assembly's upgrading on Thursday of the Palestinians' status from "observer entity" to "non-member state", Israel said on Friday it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Palestinians want for a future state, along with Gaza.

An Israeli official said the government also ordered "preliminary zoning and planning work" for thousands of housing units in areas including the so-called "E1" zone near Jerusalem.

Such construction could divide the West Bank in two and further dim Palestinian hopes, backed by the United States and other international sponsors of the Middle East peace process, for a contiguous country.

But Israeli officials said it could up to two years before any building begins in E1.

At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the "unilateral step the Palestinians took at the U.N. is a gross violation of previous agreements signed with Israel". The government of Israel, he added, "rejects the General Assembly's vote".

The upgrade, approved overwhelmingly, fell short of full U.N. membership, which only the Security Council can grant. But it has significant legal implications because it could allow the Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court where they could file complaints against Israel.

Israel's settlement plans, widely seen as retaliation for the Palestinians' U.N. bid, have drawn strong international condemnation from the United States, France, Britain and the European Union.

"The recognition of Palestine as a state changes a lot of the facts, and aims to establish new ones," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a cheering crowd in the West Bank city of Ramallah on his return from the United States.

"But we have to recognise that our victory provoked the powers of settlement, war and occupation."

INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM

Netanyahu heads a pro-settler government and opinion polls predict his Likud party will come out on top in Israel's Jan. 22 parliamentary election, despite opponents' allegations that his policies have deepened Israeli diplomatic isolation.

"All settlement construction is illegal under international law and constitutes an obstacle to peace," the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Sunday.

The United States said the plan was counterproductive to any resumption of direct peace talks, stalled for two years in a dispute over settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

Netanyahu says Israel, as a Jewish state, has a historic claim to land in the West Bank and to all of Jerusalem. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Israel considers all of the holy city as its capital, a claim that is not recognised internationally.

Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Attias said that within weeks the government would publish invitations for bids from contractors to build 1,000 homes in East Jerusalem and more than 1,000 in West Bank settlement blocs.

"E1 is in planning, which means sketches on paper," Attias told Army Radio. "No one will build until it is clear what will be done there."

The E1 zone is considered especially sensitive. Israel froze much of its activities in E1 under pressure from former U.S. President George W. Bush and the area has been under the scrutiny of his successor Barack Obama.

Benny Kashriel, mayor of the Maale Adumim settlement adjacent to E1, told Army Radio building "will take a year or two".

Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said: "If we build in E1 the two-state vision will truly be history ... it is a strategic point that if built, will prevent the Palestinians from having a normal state."

Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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Comments (4)
EyesWideShut wrote:
Israel is in direct violation of over 70 UN resolutions, more than all the rogue nations of the earth combined, the number would be closer to 100 if nt for US veto. It has a formidable nuclear arsenal of over 200 warheads but is not a member of ANY interational nuclear watchdogs or treaties unlike Iran. Israel has consistently thumbed its nose at the international community ever since its conception, mainly due to the supremacist ideaology that Jews are “Gods Chosen People & ‘God’ gave them the land” So it is a fact that the only borders recognised internationally are the 1967 borders and as such the UN must form a multinational military force to forcibly roll the illegal settlements back behind the legitimate borders and as directed by its own mandate, the first resolution Israel ignored so as to allow the Palestinians the right of return to their stolen lands. Barring that there will never be peace and the rogue illegitimate state of Israel will continue to bethe greatest threat to peace and the single greatest contributor to the outbreak of WW3

Dec 03, 2012 3:45pm EST  --  Report as abuse
RabbitNexus wrote:
A combination of arrogance, belligerance and sheer over the cliff insanity will see the Zionist state destroyed, before long.

Dec 03, 2012 7:26pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Irishs wrote:
What is the difference between Almadinejad of Iran and Netanyahu of Israel?

Almadinejad did not personally steal nuclear triggers from the US.

Almadinejad did not steal and sell american nuclear and military secrets to russia and china.

Look up project Pinto and learn that this bellicose ass sold america out.

FREE US FROM THE JEWISH JIHAD

Dec 03, 2012 10:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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