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Israel plans more land grab; Abbas looks to Paris conference

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian president said Tuesday that he hopes the upcoming Mideast conference in France will set a timetable to end settlements, as Israel advances plans for thousands of new homes in parts of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians, despite the recent UN Security Council resolution condemning construction there.
The developments came just days after the United States broke with past practice and allowed the UN Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation” of international law.
Mahmoud Abbas’ comments early Tuesday were his first public remarks since the UN vote.
“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 and 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, in our occupied land including East Jerusalem.”
On Jan. 15, days before President Barack Obama leaves office, France is expected to host a Mideast conference where dozens of countries may endorse an international framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently opposes such activity, saying it undermines the negotiating process. Abbas has refused to be part of direct talks unless Israel ends settlement construction first. The Palestinians claim the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem, home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, as parts of their future state. Israel says settlements, along with other core issues like security, should be agreed upon in peace talks.
Despite the UN resolution condemning settlements, Jerusalem Municipality is set to approve thousands of new housing units in the eastern sector of the city this week. The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported the Jerusalem District Zoning Committee is convening Wednesday to discuss approving fresh construction in that part of the city.
Netanyahu was outraged by the UN Security Council resolution and has declared a number of steps in response to the measure, which passed 14-0 with an American abstention.
A furious Israeli government on Tuesday said it had received “ironclad” information from Arab sources that Washington actively helped craft last week’s UN resolution.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the country was “reducing” ties with nations that voted for last resolution. It also summoned ambassadors from council members, including the US, to protest.
Netanyahu is recalling his nation’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal for consultations and canceling a planned January visit to Israel by Senegal’s foreign minister.
Meanwhile, US President-elect Donald Trump has questioned the effectiveness of the United Nations, saying it’s just a club for people to “have a good time,” after the Security Council vote.
He wrote on Twitter that the UN. has “such great potential,” but it has become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
On Friday, Trump warned, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” referring to the day he takes office.