In response to U.N. vote, Israel moves to build new homes on West Bank

“Israel decided Thursday to approve the construction of an additional 3,000 housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” reports Ynet News. “In addition, the planning procedures of thousands of additional housing units in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs will be furthered, including in the segment connecting Ma’ale Adumim with Jerusalem, known as the E1 project. State officials said Israel was considering further moves in response to the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as an observer state. The decision was made by the government’s top nine ministers. A state official said the continuation of construction was done in accordance with the map of Israel’s strategic interests.”

At the same time, “the Jerusalem Municipality will reportedly fast-track approval for thousands of new homes in areas of the city east of the Green Line, including a much-disputed neighborhood in the city’s north and an entirely new neighborhood in the city’s south, Israeli media reported Monday night,” the Times of Israel reports. “The move will likely further exacerbate tensions that have arisen since Israel announced Friday it would step up settlement construction as a response to the Palestinians’ upgraded status at the United Nations. Some 1,700 units are scheduled for approval by the municipality in Ramat Shlomo, a largely ultra-Orthodox neighborhood on the northern outskirts of the city. The construction plans were initially okayed a year ago, during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden.”

Simultaenously, Israeli “Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz stated Sunday morning that he would not transfer the tax payments collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority this month,” reports Ynet. “The finance minister said, ‘I have no intention of transferring the tax payments to the PA this month. I plan to use them to offset the Palestinian debt to the Israel Electric Corporation.’ Steinitz referred to the Palestinian UN bid as a ‘provocation and an attempt to further a state without recognizing Israel, demilitarization or any security arrangements.'”

U.S. and European leaders have denounced Israel’s moves as obstacles to peace. The Jerusalem Post reports: “White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing that the US urged Israel 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. We reiterate our long-standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and east Jerusalem  construction.’

Israeli officials, however, sound firm in their resolve to move forward with construction plans. “The  Palestinian unilateral moves at the UN are a blatant and fundamental violation of agreements to which the international community was a guarantor,” one Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post. “No one should be surprised that Israel is not sitting with its  arms folded in response to the unilateral Palestinian steps.”

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