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New Israeli Settlement Construction Set for Approval

  • VOA News

A couple walk in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank, Dec. 24, 2016.

Israeli officials are set to approve permits Wednesday for the construction of hundreds of new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem, in defiance of a landmark United Nations resolution calling for an end to such construction in territories seized by Israel from its Arab neighbors in the 1967 war.

Israeli news reports say the Jerusalem District Zoning Committee is set to approve construction of 600 housing units, as part of a larger plan for nearly 6,000 new homes.

The widely expected approvals come as the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lash out at Friday's U.N. resolution and the decision by the United States to abstain from the vote rather than blocking it, as Washington has with every other such resolution in the past.

Friday's measure condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “a flagrant violation under international law,” calling the construction an enduring obstacle to regional peace.

The council approved the measure 14-0, with the United States abstaining.

Netanyahu government blames U.S.

Signs of palpable anger in the Netanyahu government toward Washington continued Tuesday, with Netanyahu spokesman David Keys telling reporters the government had information that the Obama administration actively helped craft the resolution.

In comments Tuesday, Keyes told MSNBC television the information shows “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the White House was behind the resolution. He declined to offer specifics, saying “some of the information is sensitive, so I can't share it on live TV.”

On Sunday, a visibly angry Netanyahu, speaking on national television, blasted the U.N. resolution and the U.S. abstention, calling the U.S. inaction a “shameful” swipe against Washington's traditional ally.

He said his immediate response includes the withholding of nearly $8 million in funding to unnamed institutions, and said “there is more to come.” He did not elaborate, but later recalled ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal, two of the resolution's four sponsors.

The prime minister also said he had ordered his foreign ministry to review within a month all of Israel's engagements with the world body.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Dec. 25, 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Dec. 25, 2016.

Palestinians celebrate U.N. measure

Elsewhere in the region, Palestinians hailed the vote, with former Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat calling it “a clear and unanimous message” to Netanyahu that his policies will not lead to peace or security for Israel or Palestinians.

Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum described the outcome of the U.N. ballot as “a vote for the right of Palestinian people (to live) on their land.”

More than 500,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in settlements that most world governments view as illegal. The Obama administration has called them “illegitimate.”

Citing biblical connections to the land and modern-day security concerns, Israel claims all of Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories seized during the Six-Day War of 1967.

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