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Israel to go ahead with new settlements

JERUSALEM: Israel will not backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation, an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu s office said on Monday.

“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.

Four European nations summoned their Israeli ambassadors on Monday to denounce Israel s latest settlement construction push, deepening the rift between the Jewish state and European allies that has cracked open over the Palestinians  successful U.N. statehood bid.

Although Europe considers all Israeli settlement construction illegal, the summoning of ambassadors in France, Britain, Sweden and Spain to accuse Israel of undermining already troubled peace efforts was an unusually strong expression of displeasure.

It came at a time when Israel was already smarting over Europe s failure to back the Jewish state in its campaign against the statehood move.

The Europeans were furious over Israel s announcement Friday that it would move ahead on plans to build 3,000 settler homes to punish the Palestinians for winning U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine in territories Israel captured in 1967.

Israel also said it would begin planning work on an especially sensitive piece of land outside Jerusalem that it has refrained from developing because of U.S. pressure. A meeting with developers and other interested parties was to take place Wednesday, though officials have stressed that it could be years before actual construction begins.

After a flurry of angry phone calls from European capitals to Israel over the weekend, France summoned the Israeli envoy to Paris late Monday morning.

France, the first major European country to announce support for the Palestinian statehood effort, also sent a letter to the Israeli government, calling the settlement decision “a considerable obstacle to the two-state solution.”

 

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