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Israel mulls next move after UN recognizes Palestine

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it considers the UN's partial Palestinian recognition a violation of past agreements and that Israel "will act accordingly." New settlements appear likely.

Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper and then three major news agencies reported on Friday that the Israeli government was planning to build 3,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem, less than a day after the UN General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. The reports cited government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Ha'aretz report posited that building might take place in the so-called E1 area in East Jerusalem that divides the northern and southern segments of the West Bank. Israel had previously refrained from building new settlements there so that the West Bank would not be divided.

The Israeli government did not officially comment on the matter on Friday afternoon, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had alluded to consequences after Thursday evening's vote at the UN headquarters in New York.

"By going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly," Netanyahu's office wrote on his official Twitter feed. It was the account's most recent entry, the last of several published during the vote at the UN, one of which referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech to the General Assembly as "defamatory and venomous" and "full of mendacious propaganda."

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told public radio on Friday that the UN motion showed that Abbas "is absolutely not interested in making peace."

The United States said on Friday that a new Israeli settlement expansion plan was "counterproductive" and could make it harder to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Comfortable majority in UN vote

The motion to recognize the Palestinian territories as a non-member observer state, sharing the status with Vatican City, passed by 138 votes to nine, with 41 abstentions.

Israel, the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau opposed the motion; Germany was one of the countries to abstain, along with 11 other EU members.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday that Netanyahu would visit Berlin on Wednesday, December 5. Seibert said it was likely that the Palestinian recognition would be a topic of discussion – though he said this was not the explicit purpose of the visit.

"The particular goal is to expand our bilateral cooperation with concrete projects in areas like the economy, scientific research and education, as well as youth exchanges," Seibert told reporters.

msh/hc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)