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‘We do not turn the other cheek’: Israel says it will continue building settlements in defiance of UN resolution

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers joint statements with Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Atef Safadi/Pool

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s government said Monday that it planned to approve the construction of nearly 6,000 new homes in the predominantly Palestinian eastern Jerusalem, with 600 settlements due to be approved Wednesday.

Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, the committee chairman responsible for planning the expansion, told the newspaper Israel Hayom that the settlement expansion would continue, in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution passed Friday calling on Israel to immediately halt the construction of new homes on Palestinian land.

“We remain unfazed by the UN vote, or by any other entity that tries to dictate what we do in Jerusalem,” Turgeman said. “I hope the Israeli government and the new US administration will support us, so we can make up for the lack [of support] during the eight years of the Obama administration.”

The resolution has infuriated the Israelis and worsened the already chilly relations between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stemming most prominently from the US-led nuclear negotiations with Iran and Obama’s longstanding opposition to Israel’s settlement policy.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it was “reducing” working ties with 12 of the UN Security Council countries that voted to pass the resolution, and Netanyahu said during a cabinet meeting Sunday that he had “no doubt” the Obama administration colluded with the Palestinians behind Israel’s back.

Netanyahu on Sunday summoned to Jerusalem 10 ambassadors from the UN Security Council nations that voted to pass the resolution to personally reprimand them. He also canceled a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May that had been scheduled on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos next month.

Obama Netanyahu

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US President Barack Obama meeting with Netanyahu at the White House in Washington in 2014.

“Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” Netanyahu said, according to The New York Times. “This is a responsible, measured, and vigorous response, the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the UN is unacceptable to us.”

The resolution “condemned all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status of the Palestinian territory, occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”

Though Netanyahu lobbied the US to wield its veto power during the vote, it was never expected that Israel would abide by the terms of the resolution if it passed.

Netanyahu’s office released a statement immediately after the vote passed, calling it “absurd” and saying Israel “looks forward” to working with the incoming administration of US President-elect Donald Trump to “negate” the resolution’s “harmful effects.”

It is unclear what, if any, steps the international community will take to compel Israel to abide by the terms of the resolution, which requested the UN secretary-general “to report to the council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution.”

Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki suggested that the resolution would allow the Palestinians to appeal to international legal bodies to hold Israel accountable for settlement expansion.

“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” he said, according to The Times.

He added: “We are looking to devise a comprehensive vision, and hopefully 2017 will be the year when the Israeli occupation ends.”

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