A diplomatic storm is brewing over Israel’s decision to build more settlements – and to open the door for possible construction on new land that until now it has given assurances it would not touch.
The green light has been given for early planning work that could see thousands of new homes built in the hills east of Jerusalem.
Such a move could divide the West Bank and cut Palestinians off from the city.
Western governments have reacted angrily. In London and Paris the Israeli ambassadors were summoned in protest. But both countries have stopped short of recalling their ambassadors in Tel Aviv.
Germany and Russia have called for Israeli restraint.
Dismissing his critics, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that his government would carry on building in places that were in Israel’s “strategic interests”.
The move follows the United Nations’ effective recognition of Palestinian statehood. The vote saw the returning President Mahmoud Abbas greeted as a hero and brought wild celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the settlement plan would deal “an almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution.