Israel doubles down after UN vote, vowing to build new settlements in East Jerusalem

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 10:40pm

Israel on Tuesday intensified its criticism of the Obama administration for allowing the United Nations to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, and vowed to press ahead with new construction in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope to make the capital of an independent state.

David Keyes, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel has “ironclad information” that the White House helped draft the resolution, the Associated Press reported. The Obama administration denied the allegation.

The controversy was triggered Friday, when the United States broke with long tradition and abstained from a UN Security Council resolution calling Israeli settlements in lands claimed by Palestinians a “flagrant violation” of international law. In the past, the US has used its veto on the Security Council to block similar measures.

US President Barack Obama has criticised settlements as being an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

But Jerusalem Municipality is set to approve thousands of new housing units in the eastern sector of the city this week.

“We remain unfazed by the UN vote, or by any other entity that tries to dictate what we do in Jerusalem,” Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Meir Turgeman, who heads the Jerusalem District Zoning Committee, told the the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom.

“I hope the Israeli government and the new US administration will support us, so we can make up for the lack (of construction) during the eight years of the Obama administration,” Turgeman said.

His reference was to US president-elect Donald Trump, who had urged Obama to veto the UN resolution and condemned the White House for abstaining.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas weighed in Tuesday, saying he hopes an upcoming Mideast conference in France will set a timetable for independence.

“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,” Abbas said.

“We hope this conference comes up with a mechanism and timetable to end the occupation,” Abbas told a meeting of his Fatah party. “The (resolution) proves that the world rejects the settlements, as they are illegal.”

Israel has already taken diplomatic steps in response to what it calls the “shameful” resolution, which received the support of 14 Security Council members and a US abstention.

On Tuesday, the foreign ministry said it was “temporarily reducing” visits and work with embassies of nations that voted for it.

On Christmas Day it summoned ambassadors of countries that voted for the resolution while Netanyahu met US ambassador Daniel Shapiro on Sunday.

Security Council members such as Russia, China and Britain are key to Israeli diplomacy or trade and some analysts suggested the measures being taken were more symbolic than substantive.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Agence France-Presse