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Israel to expand settlements in retaliation for UN resolution

JERUSALEM: In the days following the UN Security Council’s resolution affirming the illegality of Israeli settlements, it is business as usual as the Jerusalem municipality is expected to approve about 5,600 more homes.
Israeli officials acknowledged that the move to expand the settlements in East Jerusalem was a direct response to the Security Council Resolution 2334 that was approved by 14 countries — Britain, Russia, China, France, Egypt and Spain among them — with the US abstaining.
In another retaliatory measure, Israeli media reported that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered Israeli security to end its cooperation on civilian matters with the Palestinians, although it will continue its coordination efforts on policing measures.
Yet it is the expansion of settlements that is the result of Benjamin Netanyahu’s ire at the countries that affirmed the resolution and the US abstention that paved the way for the unanimous vote.
The resolution, Netanyahu said, was “part of the swan song of the old world that is biased against Israel, but, my friends, we are entering a new era,” he said of Donald Trump’s imminent presidency.
Trump reacted after the vote by promising change at the UN. “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th,” he tweeted referring to the date of his inauguration.
Jerusalem’s Local Planning and Building Committee is expected to approve 2,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo, 2,600 others in Givat HaMatos, and 400 units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement.
“Building Jerusalem is essential for the development of the city for the benefit of all residents, Jews and Arabs alike,” said a spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality. “The city will continue, with all of the tools at its disposal, to develop our capital in accordance with the city’s master plan and planning and construction laws.”
The Hebrew-language Israel Hayom newspaper reported that Meir Turjuman, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, “did not care” about the UN or “any other entity that tries to dictate to us what to do in Jerusalem.”
The deputy mayor also reportedly said he was looking forward to the incoming Trump administration to “make up for the shortage in construction during Obama’s eight-year tenure.”
The number of settlers living in the West Bank has increased from 281,100 in 2008 to 385,900 in 2015, excluding those residing in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem (ARIJ) estimates that between 500,000 and 600,000 Israeli settlers currently reside in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.
Meanwhile, plans for some 3,000 settler units were advanced since the start 2016 as of August, according to Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, including hundreds of existing units that were “retroactively legalized” after formerly being considered illegal under Israeli domestic law.

— WITH INPUT FROM REUTERS, AFP

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