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Israel stands firm on Jerusalem despite U.N. call to halt expansion

NEW YORK, July 14 (JTA) — Israel is standing firm in its decision to extend the boundaries of Jerusalem. Reacting to a U.N. Security Council statement issued late Monday night calling on Israel to halt plans for expanding its capital city, Israeli officials reiterated the contention that the issue is a municipal matter. “We do not believe the Security Council should have dealt with this to begin with,” Dore Gold, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a telephone interview. The 15-member U.N. body unanimously approved a “presidential statement” describing the plans as “serious and damaging.” It was the second U.N. action of concern to Israel in a week. On July 7, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution enhancing the status of the Palestinians at the world body. Sources at the U.S. mission said the United States had worked hard “at high levels” to bring about a compromise that would maintain council unity in passing the presidential statement, rather than an Arab-sponsored resolution that would have condemned Israel and demanded that its decision to expand the boundaries be rescinded. A presidential statement carries less weight than a Security Council resolution, which the United States vehemently opposed. In a brief statement released after the late night council meeting on Monday, U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said, “The United States feels that the presidential statement is the appropriate response to current circumstances. We believe that the presidential statement is preferable — significantly — to a resolution. “The United States would have vetoed a resolution condemning Israel or blocked any action designed to nullify what had happened. “Most importantly,” the U.S. statement continues, the Security Council document “expresses support for the Middle East peace process.” Israeli officials were reluctant to comment on the U.S. position, but Palestinian officials criticized the U.S. role in averting a resolution. “It is unfortunate that once again the United States has deflected the work of the Security Council to dilute its position and come up with a non-binding statement,” Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian minister, was quoted as saying. But the statement leaves open the possibility that the issue may resurface in the Security Council. Its fifth and final point states simply that “the Security Council will keep Israeli actions under review.” Israel countered the Security Council document, saying it ignored the fact that the June 21 decision to include settlements within Jerusalem’s jurisdiction extends only to areas west of the city. “Under the Oslo agreements,” Gold said, “Jerusalem clearly remains under exclusive jurisdiction of Israel. We have the right to do what is necessary to preserve its security.”

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