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U.N. condemns Israel's settlement plan


Israel says construction to begin next week

March 13, 1997
Web posted at: 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United Nations voted overwhelmingly Thursday afternoon to condemn Israel's plan to build a new settlement in East Jerusalem. Nonetheless, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the construction will go ahead next week.

The U.N. General Assembly voted 130-2, with two abstentions, to tell Israel to stop its proposed housing expansion in East Jerusalem, warning that the plan threatens international law. Israel considers Jerusalem its capital, while Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual Palestinian state.

The United States and Israel voted against the resolution; Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained. The vote followed a day-long debate Wednesday during which speakers from throughout the world joined the Palestinians before the 185-member General Assembly in denouncing Israeli settlement plans.

Israel called the resolution one-sided and biased. Israel's acting U.N. ambassador, David Peleg, had accused the Palestinians of turning "to parties not involved in the peace process with the hope of imposing their positions on Israel."

Netanyahu said from Moscow that he was "fed up with the idea that everything we do is a violation of the agreement, and everything the Palestinians say is in compliance with the agreement. If the Palestinians are serious about peace, let them sit down with us," he had said Wednesday.

There was no indication Thursday that worldwide condemnation of the planned construction had changed his position. He also faces strong pressure from conservative elements within his own governing coalition, who are furious that he has softened his stance on peace with the Palestinians.

"We agreed that at the beginning of next week, the tractors will...begin work," Police Minister Avigdor Kahalani said after meeting with Netanyahu early Thursday.

"Our people will face the bulldozers with their bodies," Palestinian legislator Bishara Daoud said Thursday. "We appeal to them to be united in fighting the bulldozers."

The United States vetoed a similar resolution last Friday, even though Washington has backed criticism of the housing proposal, but there is no veto in the Assembly. Thursday's vote is not legally binding.

Correspondent Richard Roth contributed to this report.  

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