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Netanyahu dismisses world condemnation of settlement plans
Published Sunday 02/12/2012 (updated) 03/12/2012 20:16
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A child from Bilin village looks over the settlement of Modiin Illit which
is being built on the village's lands. (MaanImages/Charlotte de Bellabre)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday brushed off world condemnation of Israel's plans to expand Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto UN 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 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 UN 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 take up to two years before any building begins in E1.

At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the "unilateral step the Palestinians took at the UN 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 UN 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' UN 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," 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 recognize 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 recognized 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 US 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 Israeli settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967.
1 ) Mel / USA
02/12/2012 18:28
Sociopaths always 'dismiss'.Nazi-sympathize did,& they were hunted down,executed,or escaped inUS,S/Africa,Israel etc!Mr. POTUS!RETHINK CIVIL RIGHTS!And the dangerous'special bond'with Zionism.It's not anti-semitic,to HOLD POLITICAL ZIONISM(Christian factions includ)accountable forWAR CRIMES,since WW2. Zionism's not a fragile child 2 protect from bullies! IT IS THE BULLY,& USG has shielded it,for 2 long against GLOBAL CONSENSUS!We won't tolerate bullies,or take the BLOWBACK,ANYMORE!

2 ) Reader / from Edmonton
02/12/2012 19:00
If Israel doesn't respect the decisions and resolutions of the United Nations, why don't they leave? They won't join the NPT because they don't want 'others' looking at their nuclear weapons. So why remain in the UN if they don't want 'others' looking at violations of their 1948 borders?

02/12/2012 21:14
I wish the US would leave the UN. It is a cesspool, an enabler of evil and nothing but a money drain on the US treasury. How I wish Israel would be kicked out, then Congress might realize that we should leave as well. And get it out of New York. Put it in Shanghai or Pretoria or Sao Paolo or Brussels. Anywhere else. I cannot stand the stink.

4 ) Carol Scheller / Switzerland
02/12/2012 21:25
The "bilateral step" was approved in a vote by 138 countries in favor. This is bilateral ?

5 ) gabi / australia
03/12/2012 00:18
the UN allowed Israel to become a member in 1949 on the basis that it agreed to abide by UN resolutions allowing the refugees back, or pay just compensation. They reneged on that promise almost immediately. They deserve to be expelled from the UN. They always argue that the UN is biased against them anyway and disregard any resolution requiring them to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. They say they don't need the UN. Well the UN should say they don't need Israel. Kick them out!

6 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
03/12/2012 01:47
@ 2), Good question. Answer: We choose to remain in the U.N. to still be able to directly communicate and vote with other member nations on other issues instead of doing everything separately nation-by-nation or embassy-by-embassy. So at least for now we still believe our U.N. membership, despite our violations of past and current U.N. resolutions and our refusal to go along with the U.N. Palestinian upgrade, is better off alive than dead. Granted, that could change. If at any time(cont.)

7 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
03/12/2012 02:02
the U.N. thinks otherwise and chooses to expel us, that would be fine with us. Of course we might not like it but we sure as hell are not going to let any expulsion affect us adversely. If the U.N. can exist without us (and it can), we can exist without it (and surely would). @ 3), So e-mail your views to your U.S. Congress, President and State Dept. Good Luck !!! @ 4), No-o-o-o-o ... you must learn to read ... Nobody said the vote was a "bilateral step" and it definitely wasn't. (cont.)

8 ) Robert / US
03/12/2012 02:09
Simple.... Drop him !!

9 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
03/12/2012 02:14
Separately, our planned building of more homes in the W. Bank is by now common knowledge. This will go on and on and would even if the Palestinians return to "peace" talks (which, by the way, they said they would if the U.N. upgrade passed; it did and so what ??? ... I STILL want to advise them it's STILL hopeless and useless for them to return). Actually, the E1 area is only the beginning of more expansion; however, our withholding of Palestinian funds is again very stupid and won't last.

10 ) reader / USA
03/12/2012 07:22
The only money drain on the US treasury is Israel.

11 ) gabi / australia
04/12/2012 01:34
Yehuda Solomon - I don't know how you can be so open and honest about your views, which are quite contrary to the expressed views of your government - it says it wants to return to negotiations without pre-conditions (hoping no-one notices that their pre-conditions are written into the Likud charter - ie no Pal.state, more settlements, no divided Jerusalem), all the while doing exactly what you want them to do - build, build, build. Why is the govt. of the "light to all nations" so dishonest?

04/12/2012 19:14
11) Gabi, I am glad you pointed that out. So, with the PLO/PA commitment to taking all land "river to the sea", and Hamas commitment to killing every Jew, we can give up this pretense of negotiating a peaceful coexistence, and get to the real business. Lets be honest about this. Do you really expect Jews to give their enemies the Judean high ground to fire their missiles from? And the reason Yehuda can express his contrary views is because he lives in Israel, not under PLO/PA or Hamas control.

13 ) gabi / australia
06/12/2012 00:38
# 12 - it was Ben Gurion who told his fellow Jews that he would take all the land river to sea - proceeded in that attempt until the Brits left in May 1948 and other Arab states came in to protect what was then left of the Palestinian state under the partition plan. Hamas charter does not say it will kill every Jew -read the charter- and while you are at it, read the Likud charter = no Pal. state, no divided Jerusalem, more settlements. Israel"negotiating a peaceful co-existence?" What a joke

07/12/2012 16:08
We all have our "wishes" or fantasies, but REALITY REMAINS,
and the UNGA should realize Two Things:
-a- the UNGA has neither a Right, nor even an ability, to award any disputed lands to the new UN non-member observer "paper" state, where Palestine never governed, or had sovereignty, and
-b- the UNSC's 242 Resolution already awarded Israel the "right to live in peace within SECURE boundaries," rather than 1949 Armistice lines, which any military leader would consider "Indefensible" !!

15 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
07/12/2012 21:20
@ 11), Good question. Answer: It's so dishonest because it's too afraid of upsetting the U.S., EU, Quartet and others and would be too embarrassed to say otherwise. @ 12), Thank you very much (in Hebrew: Todah rabbah) for your support. To be fair and accurate, gabi is right regarding Hamas and the killing of all Jews. No, Hamas does not say or want that. Hamas is diehard anti-Zionist (anti-Israel). Even they would allow Jews (and others) to live but in and under a Palestinian (cont.)

16 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
07/12/2012 21:34
nation. @ 13), You are basically right about Ben-Gurion but no, he was realistic enough to know that it was better to always try and give peaceful co-existence a chance. They knew the Arabs'/Palestinians' devotion to (western) Palestine would never be forgotten (despite Jordan/Palestine on the east). After U.N. 1947 partition was rejected and our May, 1948 independence declaration was announced, no, the Arabs/Pals invaded to destroy Israel, not just to protect what U.N. partition gave them.
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