Israeli leader vows more east Jerusalem building

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister on Tuesday rejected international criticism of plans to build thousands more Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, insisting that construction will move forward.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the tough response as European diplomats were discussing plans to condemn Israel in the U.N. Security Council. A U.N. resolution would be the latest in a wave of angry international reactions to Israeli plans to build in areas the Palestinians claim for a future state.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel, and we will continue to build there,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the northern Israeli city of Acre. He said Israelis overwhelmingly believed in “united Jerusalem,” referring to Jewish west Jerusalem and east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured from Jordan and annexed by Israel but claimed by the Palestinians.

A poll by the Dahaf agency and published Tuesday in the Haaretz daily said that 67 percent of center-left voters do not favor dividing Jerusalem — meaning handing over east Jerusalem to the Palestinians. Center-left describes about half of the Israeli public, who otherwise would support handing over most of the West Bank for a Palestinian state. Much of the other half opposes giving up territory at all. Dahaf did not provide details of polling methods or a margin of error.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach said a Jerusalem planning committee rejected proposals for additional Jewish houses to be built in east Jerusalem neighborhoods while approving 700 homes for Arab residents in that part of the city in a meeting late Tuesday.

The fate of the eastern sector of Jerusalem, with its holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, is an emotional issue and lies at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Jerusalem’s Old City is home to one of the world’s most sensitive religious places, holy to both Jews and Muslims.

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