Netanyahu: Israel to continue construction in settlements

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel will continue building in Jerusalem and in other areas on its “map of strategic interests,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

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Netanyahu’s remarks came Sunday at the beginning of the regular Cabinet meeting, after a weekend in which the international community slammed Israel for authorizing the construction of about 3,000 new housing units near Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

The authorization reportedly was made by the nine-member security Cabinet on the evening of Nov. 29, in the hours after the United Nations General Assembly approved enhanced observer statehood status for the Palestinians.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed on Sunday that the construction approval was meant as a reaction to the Palestinian U.N. statehood bid. It had previously been reported that the move was meant to shore up support for the Likud Party ahead of the scheduled Jan. 22 elections.

Many of the approved units reportedly will be built in the E1 corridor, which connects Jerusalem to the large Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, and which the Palestinians say is necessary to keep the borders of their as yet-established Palestinian state contiguous.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the decision on Nov. 30, during a speech at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington.

“In light of today’s announcement, let me reiterate that this administration — like previous administrations — has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” Clinton said.

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