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Israeli settlement plan tensions escalate

JERUSALEM — Palestinians and Israelis hardened their positions Wednesday over a contentious new settlement push around Jerusalem, with Israel going full throttle on plans to develop the area and the Palestinians trying to block it through an appeal to the UN Security Council.

The settlement push — Israel’s retaliation for the Palestinians’ success in winning United Nations recognition of a de facto state — has touched off an escalating international showdown. Palestinians claim the construction would deal a death blow to Middle East peace hopes. Even Israel’s staunchest allies have been outraged by the move, feeding speculation they might squeeze Israel more than usual to back down on its construction plans.

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The UN move came last week, with the General Assembly recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel, which rejects a return to its 1967 lines, says borders with a future Palestine should be resolved through negotiations.

Although Israel says construction could be years away, the settlement plans have sent a message that within these UN-recognized borders, Israel remains in control. The plans include 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and intentions to press ahead with two other projects that would drive a wedge between East Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ desired capital, and its West Bank hinterland.

International condemnation was harsher than usual, with some of Israel’s closest European allies issuing especially stern criticism. The issue was expected to be high on Germany’s agenda during a visit to Berlin by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ahead of Netanyahu’s arrival, Israel showed no signs of bending. On Wednesday it held a preliminary planning meeting for a new development in a section of the West Bank outside Jerusalem. The project, known under its Israeli administrative term ‘‘E-1,’’ is the most contentious of the new settlement projects because of its strategic location.

The Palestinians said they would leverage their newfound UN status to seek a Security Council resolution to halt the Jerusalem-area plans.

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President Mahmoud Abbas said he was determined to block the settlement building near Jerusalem with all legal and diplomatic means.

‘‘The settlement plans that Israel announced, especially E-1, are a red line,’’ Abbas said. ‘‘This must not happen.’’

The Palestinian representative to the United Nations said in letters to the council, the General Assembly, and the secretary general that the intensification of the Israeli campaign is clearly part of ‘‘Israel’s contemptuous response’’ to the assembly’s vote last week to recognize the state of Palestine.

‘‘Israel is methodically and aggressively pushing ahead with this unlawful land grab and colonization of Palestine with the intent to alter the demographic composition, character, and status of the Palestinian territory, especially in and around East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, in its favor in order to entrench its illegitimate control of the land and prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations,’’ the letter said.

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