Israel settlements move not 'punishment'
Jerusalem - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel's decision to accelerate settlement building was a fundamental right, not punishment for the Palestinians joining Unesco.
"We build in Jerusalem because it is our right and our obligation; not as punishment but as a basic right of our people to build its eternal capital," he told members of parliament.
Netanyahu's inner cabinet decided on Tuesday to speed up construction of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, a day after Unesco's general assembly voted to accept Palestine in as a full member.
The Palestinians seek to build the capital of their state in mainly-Arab east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel shortly after its capture in the 1967 Six-Day war, in a move never recognised by the international community.
Israel claims sovereignty over the entire city, which it calls its eternal and indivisible capital.
"Jerusalem will never return to the state it was in on the eve of the Six-Day War," Netanyahu told parliament.
The speeding of settlement construction was described by a senior government official, who spoke to AFP on Tuesday, as "punishment after the vote at Unesco".
And the decision to speed the building of the 2 000 settlement homes was accompanied by a plan to "temporarily freeze the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority," the official said.
Every month, Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority tens of millions of dollars in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.
The money constitutes a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.
Israel often freezes the transfer of funds as a punitive measure in response to diplomatic or political developments viewed as harmful.