Ab­bas look­ing to build on re­cent U.N. vote

The Washington Times Daily - - AMERICAN SCENE -

RA­MAL­LAH, WEST BANK | Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas said Tues­day that he hopes the up­com­ing Mid­dle East con­fer­ence in France will set a timetable to end set­tle­ments, as Is­rael ad­vances plans for thou­sands of new homes in parts of Jerusalem claimed by the Pales­tini­ans, de­spite the re­cent U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing con­struc­tion there.

The de­vel­op­ments came just days af­ter the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion broke with past U.S. prac­tice and al­lowed the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to con­demn Is­raeli set­tle­ments in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a “fla­grant vi­o­la­tion” of in­ter­na­tional law.

Mr. Ab­bas’ com­ments early Tues­day morn­ing were his first pub­lic re­marks since the U.N. vote, fol­low­ing a fu­ri­ous re­ac­tion from the gov­ern­ment of Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

“The de­ci­sion lays the foun­da­tion for any fu­ture se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­a­tion … and it paves the way for the in­ter­na­tional peace con­fer­ence slated to be held in Paris next month, and we hope this con­fer­ence comes up with a mech­a­nism and timetable to end the oc­cu­pa­tion,” Mr. Ab­bas told a meet­ing of his Fatah party. The U.N. res­o­lu­tion “proves that the world re­jects the set­tle­ments, as they are il­le­gal, in our oc­cu­pied land, in­clud­ing east Jerusalem.”

On Jan. 15, just days be­fore Pres­i­dent Obama leaves of­fice, France is ex­pected to host a Mideast con­fer­ence where dozens of coun­tries may en­dorse an in­ter­na­tional frame­work for peace be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans. Mr. Ne­tanyahu ve­he­mently op­poses such a move, say­ing it un­der­mines the ne­go­ti­at­ing process be­tween the two prin­ci­pal par­ties, Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Author­ity.

Mr. Ne­tanyahu has re­peat­edly called on Mr. Ab­bas to meet for di­rect talks with­out pre­con­di­tions. Mr. Ab­bas has re­fused un­less Is­rael ends set­tle­ment con­struc­tion first.

The Pales­tini­ans claim the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem, home to holy sites sa­cred to Jews, Mus­lims and Chris­tians, as parts of their fu­ture state. Is­rael says set­tle­ments, along with other core is­sues like se­cu­rity, should be agreed upon in di­rect peace talks.

De­spite the U.N. res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing set­tle­ments, Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is set to ap­prove thou­sands of new hous­ing units in the east­ern sec­tor of the city this week. The pro-Ne­tanyahu daily Is­rael Hayom re­ported the Jerusalem District Zon­ing Com­mit­tee is con­ven­ing Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss ap­prov­ing fresh con­struc­tion in that part of the city.

“We re­main un­fazed by the U.N. vote, or by any other en­tity that tries to dic­tate what we do in Jerusalem,” Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Meir Turge­man, who heads the zon­ing com­mit­tee, told the paper this week. “I hope the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment and the new U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion will sup­port us, so we can make up for the lack (of con­struc­tion) dur­ing the eight years of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Mr. Ne­tanyahu has de­clared a num­ber of steps in re­sponse to the U.N. vote, which passed 14-0 with an Amer­i­can ab­sten­tion.

Is­rael sum­moned am­bas­sadors from coun­cil mem­bers, in­clud­ing the U.S., to protest. Mr. Ne­tanyahu is re­call­ing his na­tion’s am­bas­sadors to New Zealand and Sene­gal for con­sul­ta­tions and can­cel­ing a planned Jan­uary visit to Is­rael by Sene­gal’s for­eign min­is­ter. He also ended Is­raeli aid pro­grams to the African coun­try.

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