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Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently yielded to heavy U.S. pressure to endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has resisted American demands for an immediate freeze on settlement expansion. On Sunday, Netanyahu told his Cabinet there would be no limits on Jewish construction anywhere in "unified Jerusalem." "We cannot accept the fact that Jews wouldn't be entitled to live and buy anywhere in Jerusalem," Netanyahu declared, calling Israeli sovereignty over the entire city "indisputable." "I can only imagine what would happen if someone suggested Jews could not live in certain neighborhoods in New York, London, Paris or Rome. There would certainly be a major international outcry," Netanyahu said.
The international community considers Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to be settlements and an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking because they complicate a possible division of the city. Israel does not regard them as settlements because it annexed east Jerusalem after capturing the area in 1967. The annexation has not been recognized internationally. East Jerusalem is an especially volatile issue because it is the site of key Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites. The Palestinians want the traditionally Arab sector of the city to be the capital of their future state.
Speaking Sunday in New Delhi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the administration was trying to reach an agreement with the Israelis on settlements. "The negotiations are intense. They are ongoing," she said. Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, in addition to about 180,000 Israelis living in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.