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Israeli leaders condemn EU on settlements

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 9:48 p.m.
 

JERUSALEM — Israeli leaders on Tuesday condemned a European Union ban on funding to Israeli institutions that operate in occupied territories but acknowledged the country's growing isolation over its construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The EU decision marked a new international show of displeasure with Israeli settlements built on lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war, bolstering the Palestinian claim to these territories and animating an increasingly discordant Israeli debate over the wisdom of the settlement enterprise.

The move dominated Israeli newscasts throughout the day, and prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to summon senior cabinet ministers for consultations.

“We will not accept any external edicts about our borders,” Netanyahu said, adding that borders could only be resolved through direct negotiations with the Palestinians. He was suggesting that the settlements are aimed at bringing about changes in the pre-1967 borders, but not absorb the entire West Bank.

Netanyahu said the Europeans should deal with what he called “slightly more urgent” matters in the region, including the civil war in Syria and the Iranian nuclear program.

But Netanyahu's finance minister and senior coalition partner, Yair Lapid, warned that the move reflected Israel's deteriorating position on the global stage.

“The latest decision is part of a long line of decisions that are leading to Israel's isolation in the world,” he said.

Negotiations have been stalled for nearly five years, with Israeli settlement construction at the heart of the deadlock.

The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured in 1967 that they claim for their future state, before negotiations can start.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, alongside about 2.5 million Palestinians.

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