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Israel approves new West Bank construction


February 19. 2013 7:55PM
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JERUSALEM — Israel on Friday approved the construction of 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements on Israeli-occupied lands, a government official said, drawing swift condemnation from the Palestinians a day after their successful U.N. recognition bid.


The Palestinians reiterated their refusal to resume negotiations with Israel while building continues. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently poised for re-election to another four-year term and insisting that any negotiations begin without preconditions, prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian partition deal appear to be going into deep freeze.


The United Nations voted overwhelmingly to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as a non-member observer state on Thursday, setting off jubilant celebrations among Palestinians.


Israel fiercely objected to the U.N. upgrade, saying Palestinian statehood could only come from direct negotiations and unilateral moves would harm that prospect. The Palestinians said the U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war was an attempt to salvage a possible peace deal.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel while settlement construction continues, saying Israel's settlement expansion on war-won land was making a partition deal increasingly difficult.


Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned Israel's announcement, saying it was defying the whole international community and insisting on destroying the two-state solution. He said the Palestinian leadership is studying its options.




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