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Israel faces UN outrage over east Jerusalem settlements

AFP , Wednesday 29 Oct 2014
Settelments
A labourer stands on an apartment building under construction in a Jewish settlement known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim, in an area of the West Bank that Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed to the city of Jerusalem, October 28, 2014. (Photo:Reuters)
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Israel was set to face sharp criticism on Wednesday for its latest plan to build settlements in east Jerusalem during a UN Security Council meeting called to address rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

The emergency talks were requested by Jordan following a letter from Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour, who called on the 15-member council to "address this crisis situation in occupied east Jerusalem."

Israel on Monday announced it was moving ahead with plans to build more than 1,000 new settler homes in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the capital of a future state.

The push followed weeks of skirmishes between Palestinian youths and police in east Jerusalem over fears that Israel wanted to restrict access to the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site.

There were no plans for a resolution, but Jordan told a meeting of Arab ambassadors on Tuesday that it would seek a Security Council statement condemning Israel, diplomatic sources said.

It remained uncertain that the United States would support a statement critical of its ally Israel.

Washington used its UN veto power in 2011 -- the only veto wielded by President Barack Obama's administration -- to quash a resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

UN diplomats say the Israeli push for more settlements is jeopardizing prospects for Palestinian statehood on land that is riddled with settlements.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Israel to reverse settlement expansions, calling them "illegal" and "totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution."

The key player however in the diplomatic push for Israeli-Palestinian peace remains the United States, which is said to be growing increasingly frustrated with Israeli intransigeance.

An article published online Tuesday by The Atlantic magazine quoted an unnamed official of the Obama administration calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "chickenshit" and attacking him over Israeli policy on settlement building.

"He won't do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he's interested in is protecting himself from political defeat... He's got no guts," the official said, adding there was "red-hot anger" over Israel's settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

European countries are stepping up the pressure on Israel to seek a peace deal, with Sweden announcing it was ready to recognize Palestine and the British parliament holding a non-binding vote on recognizing statehood.

The European Union has suggested that Israel could face sanctions for its continued settlement building, but Netanyahu has been unfazed by the criticism.

"I won't make concessions that will endanger our country," Netanyahu told parliament on Wednesday.

In his letter to the Security Council, the Palestinian representative said the council should demand that Israel rescind its plan immediately and "commit to the path of peace that it has clearly and recklessly abandoned."

UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was to brief the council at the meeting which is scheduled to begin at 1900 GMT.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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