Israel pushes settlement plan ahead; EU summons envoy
By Jeffrey Heller and Justyna Pawlak
JERUSALEM/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Israel moved ahead with plans to build 3,000 settler homes in one of the most sensitive areas of the West Bank, as the European Union summoned Israel's envoy to add its voice to a storm of international protest.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday the global condemnation, some of it from the Jewish state's closest traditional allies, would not deter it from defending its "vital interests".
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday declared the housing project, which could divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous future Palestinian state almost impossible, to be an uncrossable "red line".
An Israeli Defence Ministry official said architects and contractors appeared before a subcommittee of the military-run Civil Administration in the West Bank and registered their plans for construction in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, a preliminary step before building permits are issued.
Angered by the U.N. General Assembly's de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood on Thursday, Israel announced the next day it would build the new dwellings for settlers, on land near Jerusalem that Palestinians seek for a future state.
The decision by Netanyahu's pro-settler government to build houses on the E1 corridor's barren hills could bisect the West Bank, cut off Palestinians from Jerusalem and further dim their hopes for an independent state on contiguous territory.
"E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Continued...