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Paris conference planned, Israel still furious

December 27, 2016

France says it's sticking to its plan to host a Middle East conference next month, despite Israeli outrage focused on a UN resolution. Settler expansion is likely to proceed in east Jerusalem, says its deputy mayor.

Westbank - Siedlung Ramat Shlomo
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Hollander

France's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday Paris still intended to host a Middle East peace conference on January 15 involving 70 nations and organizations and aimed at reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Palestinian leaders have welcomed the French initiative while Israel has argued instead for direct bilateral talks without preconditions.

The last bid to broker a peace deal dates back to April 2014 when US State Secretary John Kerry conceded after nine months of inconclusive shuttle diplomacy.

Israel Premierminister Netanyahu - Kabinettssitzung
The UN resolution is "shameful," says NetanyahuImage: picture alliance/AP Images/M. Kahana

Presidential handover

Israel sustained its fury on Tuesday against the outgoing US administration of President Barack Obama amid fears in Jerusalem that further UN action against Israel could ensue before Donald Trump takes over as US president on January 20.

David Keyes, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the Israeli government had "ironclad information" from Arab sources that the White House had helped draft last Friday's resolution.

The UN Security resolution - adopted because the US declined to use its usual veto - demanded that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem."

It also said settlements had "no legal validity" and were "dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution" sought over decades.

Israel on Tuesday also said it was reducing ties with 12 council member states that voted in favor of the resolution. Trips would be limited and envoys recalled.

The resolution's passage had been welcomed on Monday by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who said it "paves the way for the international peace conference."

Schweiz Sondersitzung UN-Menschenrechtsrat Mahmud Abbas
Resolution sets trend, says Mahmoud Abbas Image: Reuters/P. Albouy

Permits 'on table'

Building permit applications for 618 housing units in mainly Palestinian eastern sector were on the agenda of Wednesday's meeting of Jerusalem city's planning committee, according to the non-governmental group Ir Amin which monitors building.

Deputy mayor Meir Turjeman, who chairs the committee, said it would "discuss everything that's on the table in a serious manner."

And, in social media, Turjeman said: "I'm not concerned by the UN or anything else trying to dictate our actions in Jerusalem."

Settler leaders have pushed Netanyahu to reaccelerate building in areas regarded by Palestinians as part of their future state.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported Tuesday that 1,506 housing units for Israelis had been approved in east Jerusalem this year, compared with 395 in 2015.

Some 570,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, in settlements most countries consider to be illegal. Israel claims biblical links.

ipj/kl (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)