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Israel to build more illegal settlements after UN resolution condemns them

Israel said it would ignore a UN Security Council resolution and push ahead with the building of more illegal settlements in Palestinian areas.

Last week, in a rare condemnation of Israel, the UN said it settlements had “no legal validity”. The criticism went ahead after the US decided to abstain, rather than use its vote to veto the measure.

Mr Netanyahu, who has long had a difficult personal relationship with Mr Obama, immediately announced that Israel would not “turn the other cheek”.

“Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolute at the UN and will not abide by its terms,” Mr Netanyahu said on Friday. “At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall ‘occupied territory’.”

On Tuesday, officials in Israel indicated their intention to push ahead with the controversial development of more Jewish settlements, with Jerusalem’s municipal government saying it intended to proceed with the building of 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian section of the city. Plans for the homes were approved in the summer.

Meir Turjeman, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, told AFP that the plans remain on the table ahead of the UN meeting and would still be raised "in a serious manner".

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Earlier, the Palestinian President, Maymoud Abbas, has also weighed in on the issue, saying that he hoped the forthcoming Middle East conference in France would bring about an end to the building of Israeli settlements.

"The decision lays the foundation for any future serious negotiation ... and it paves the way for the international peace conference slated to be held in Paris next month," he said, in his first public remarks since the UN vote.

"We hope this conference comes up with a mechanism and timetable to end the occupation. The (resolution) proves that the world rejects the settlements, as they are illegal."

Israel has responded to the vote by announcing it is reducing ties with the nations that voted against it.

The war of words between Israel and the US - Israel has claimed that Mr Obama was personally behind the UN resolution - is likely to continue for the final few weeks of Mr Obama’s presidency. Mr Netanyahu, who last year addressed the joint houses of Congress to condemn the US deal with Iran, knows that President-elect Donald Trump is likely to be far less critical of Jewish settlement building on Palestinian land.

Indeed, Mr Trump had called on the US to veto the UN resolution. When it failed to do so, he tweeted that things would be "different” after he assumes office.

Reuters said that some of Mr Netanyahu’s fiery rhetoric may be part of an effort to position himself for domestic political reasons. A $38bn US aid-package to Israel has already been agreed and the Israeli premier wants to try and tap into deep-seated feelings among many Israelis that their country and its policies towards the Palestinians receive excessive global condemnation.

It said that he has tried to rally Israelis around him by portraying the anti-settlement resolution as a challenge to Israel's claimed sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

This was underscored with a Hanukkah holiday visit to the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites, which is located in Jerusalem’s Old City in the eastern sector captured along with the West Bank in a 1967 war.

Almost all Israelis believe that Jerusalem is their country’s capital.

Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem as their capital, while Washington has in the past accepted an international view that the city's status must be determined at future peace talks.

In contrast, Mr Trump has promised to reverse decades of US policy by moving the US.embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Speaking on MSNBC on Monday, Israel's ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, accused the Obama administration of orchestrating Friday’s UN vote behind the scenes, despite US denials.

Mr Trump has selected David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer and son of an Orthodox rabbi, as his choice to be the US envoy in Israel.

The Associated Press said Mr Friedman is a fervent supporter of Israeli settlements, an opponent of Palestinian statehood and a defender of Israel’s government.

Independent News Service

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