Israel says will stick with settlement plan despite condemnation

JERUSALEM  (Reuters) – Israel rejected concerted criticism from the United States and Europe yesterday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to expand settlement building after the United Nations’ de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Washington urged Israel to reconsider its plan to erect 3,000 more homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying the move hindered peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their capitals to give similar messages.

An official in Netanyahu’s office said Israel would not bend. “Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests, even in the face of international pressure, and there will be no change in the decision that was made,” the official said.

Angered by the UN General Assembly’s upgrading on Thursday of the Palestinians’ status in the world body from “observer entity” to “non-member state”, Israel said the next day it would build the new dwellings for settlers.

Such projects, on land Israel captured in a 1967 war, are considered illegal by most world powers and have routinely drawn condemnation from them. Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the two areas.

Benjamin Netanyahu

In a shift that raised the alarm among Palestinians and in world capitals, Netanyahu’s pro-settler government also ordered “preliminary zoning and planning work” for thousands of housing units in areas including the “E1” zone east of Jerusalem.

Such construction in the barren hills of E1 has never been put into motion in the face of opposition from Israel’s main ally, the United States. Building in the area could bisect the West Bank, cut off Palestinians from Jerusalem and further dim their hopes for a contiguous state.

Israeli television stations reported Jerusalem’s district planning commission would soon approve plans for several thousand more housing units, including more than 1,000 Israel had shelved two years ago after angering Washington by publishing the plans before a visit by Vice President Joe Biden.

The settlement plan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, would deal “an almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

French President Francois Hollande said he was “extremely concerned” and Washington made clear it would not back such Israeli retaliation over the UN vote, sought by Palestinians after peace talks collapsed in 2010 over settlement building.

“We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two state solution,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing.
Ahead of a Netanyahu visit this week, Germany, considered Israel’s closest ally in Europe, urged it to refrain from expanding settlements, and Russia said it viewed the Israeli moves with serious concern.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel could not have remained indifferent to the Palestinians’ unilateral move at the United Nations.

“I want to tell you that those same Europeans and Americans who are now telling us ‘naughty, naughty’ over our response, understand full-well that we have to respond, and they themselves warned the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said building in E1 “destroys the two-state solution, (establishing) East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and practically ends the peace process and any opportunity to talk about negotiations in the future”.

Comments  

Protect the Amazon from big business and greed, Pope Francis urges

PUERTO MALDONADO, Peru, (Reuters) – Pope Francis issued a ringing defense of the people and the environment of the Amazon yesteday, saying big business and “consumerist greed” could not be allowed to destroy a natural habitat vital for the entire planet.

Venezuelans flock to Colombia in last half of 2017 -government

BOGOTA, (Reuters) – The number of Venezuelans living in Colombia jumped 62 percent in the last half of 2017 to more than 550,000, its migration authority said yesterday, as Venezuela’s economic devastation hastens migration to the neighbouring country.

Ex-Honduran minister gets nearly 2-1/2 years prison in U.S. drug case

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – A former member of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s cabinet was sentenced by a New York federal judge to nearly 2-1/2 years in prison yesterday, after pleading guilty to attempting to launder drug money from the Central American country.

Actor Michael Douglas accused of sexual misconduct in 1980s

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – A woman yesterday publicly accused Oscar-winning actor and producer Michael Douglas of sexual misconduct, saying he had repeatedly harassed her verbally and fondled himself in front of her when she worked for him in the 1980s.

Magufuli bans registration of foreign ships in Tanzania, orders probe

DAR ES SALAAM,  (Reuters) – Tanzanian President John Magufuli yesterday put a temporary ban on the registration of foreign ships in the country and ordered over 400 vessels to be investigated for allegations of involvement in criminal activity.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now

×