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Israel Refuses to Halt Settlement Construction

Israel decided to move ahead with settlement construction Tuesday, giving the go-ahead for the building of 1,100 housing units in east Jerusalem, even after Palestinians claimed the area as their future capital in their application for U.N. membership last week.

The Interior Ministry announced that construction of the homes would begin in Gilo after a mandatory 60-day period for public comment passes.

The United Nations, European Union and the United States all condemned Israel’s decision, which ignores Palestinian demands that Israel halt settlement construction as a condition for resuming peace talks. –BF

The Christian Science Monitor:

Since capturing east Jerusalem, Israel has annexed the area and ringed it with about 10 Jewish enclaves that are meant to solidify its control. Gilo, which is close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, is among the largest, with about 50,000 residents. Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem has not been internationally recognized.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem city council member who is critical of east Jerusalem construction, said city officials had given initial approval to the Gilo project more than a year ago.

Margalit said he didn’t expect the project to be “an obstacle of peace” since it is in an existing Jewish area that is widely expected to remain part of Israel in any peace deal. But he said Interior Minister Eli Yishai, leader of the hawkish Shas Party, appeared to have timed the approval as a response to the Palestinian statehood gambit. Yishai declined an interview request.

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