Amid increasing international criticism of Israel's recent approval of construction plans in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a television interview Friday that he is not interested in what the UN has to say about the subject.
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Following the UN vote granting the Palestinians non-member status, Israel announced plans to advance a long-frozen project for the E-1 corridor, which links the city of Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim. The Netanyahu government also announced plans to build 3,000 new residential units beyond the green line.
Criticism of these reached as far as the UN this week, when on Wednesday fourteen members of the UN Security Council condemned Israel for its intention to move ahead with construction in E-1, as well as with building new settler homes. On Tuesday the U.S. State Department accused Israel of engaging in a "pattern of provocative action" that runs counter to statements from Israeli leaders that they are committed to peace.
In Friday's Channel 2 interview - an excerpt from interviews the prime minister granted Israel's three main channels which were broadcast on Saturday - Netanyahu said construction is a matter of principle. "We live in a Jewish state, and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The Western Wall is not occupied territory. We will build in Jerusalem because this is our right. What the UN says doesn't interest me."
Asked whether the recent announcements were a political maneuver ahead of the January elections, and whether they were made on the advice of the Likud party's political strategist, Arthur Finkelstein, Netanyahu countered that this is a matter of government policy. Such assertions are "urban legends," he added.
Netanyahu blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the absence of peace talks during the Israeli premier's past four years in office, because the Palestinian leader refused to negotiate unless Israel met certain preconditions, including a settlement freeze.
Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, by contrast, was not a precondition for the start of negotiations, but "a condition for the end of negotiations."
Netanyahu also responded to comments by leader of right-wing party, Habayit Hayehudi, Naftali Bennett, on Thursday, that he would refuse IDF orders if he were told to evacuate a settlement.
Bennett told Channel 2 on Thursday: "If I receive an order to evict a Jew from his house and expel him, personally, my conscience wouldn't allow it. I'd ask my commander to exempt me. But I wouldn't publicly call for disobeying orders."
Netanyahu told his interviewers, "Anyone who insists on refusing IDF orders will not be a minister in my government."