Netanyahu rejects criticism, vows to build in east Jerusalem

Dismissing US and EU criticism over Israel's plans to build new housing units in east Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue with the construction work in all parts of the city.

Jerusalem: Dismissing US and EU criticism over Israel's plans to build new housing units in east Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue with the construction work in all parts of the city.

At a ground-breaking ceremony for a new port in Ashdod, he said Israel would continue to build new ports, pave roads, lay rail road tracks and "continue to build in our eternal capital."

"We will continue building in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. We've built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem and will continue building in Jerusalem," he told the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) yesterday.

In an apparent reference to US State Department's criticism yesterday over Israel's decision to build 1,060 housing units in two neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem as "illegitimate" which pushed peace away, the Israeli Premier said that such statements were "detached from reality" and feeds false hopes among Palestinians.

"I heard a claim that our construction in the Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem is pushing peace away, it is criticism that is pushing peace away," he said.

The US State Department had yesterday said that recent Israeli actions are not reflective of an administration pursuing peace.

"We view settlement activity as illegitimate and unequivocally oppose unilateral steps that prejudge the future of Jerusalem," State Department's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

She expressed concerns following reports of expedited construction in the controversial areas of Jerusalem.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for outgoing EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, also condemned Israeli decision saying, the move "once again" calls into question Israel's commitment "to a negotiated solution with the Palestinians."

Kocijancic warned that "the future development of relations between the EU and Israel will depend on [its] engagement towards a lasting peace based on a two-state solution."

"When (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas incites to murder Jews in Jerusalem, the (international) community remains silent, but when we build in Jerusalem they are angered. I don't accept this double standard," Netanyahu alleged defending Israeli action.

"Just as the French build in Paris and just as the English build in London - Israelis build in Jerusalem," he stressed.

The decision to announce construction of new housing units to appease the right-wing came under attack from centrist coalition partners in Netanyahu's government.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni decried the move saying these type of steps will make it more difficult for Israel to thwart Palestinian efforts in the UN Security Council .

Livni told Israel Radio that while she feels that Israel has the right to build in Jerusalem, these announcements not only hurt Israel diplomatically, but also worsen the volatile security situation in the capital.

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