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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country will continue forward with its plans to build Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem – despite the international backlash it has received. 

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500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but settlement projects on the land Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War are considered illegal by most world powers and have routinely drawn condemnation. 

With a January 22nd election right around the corner for Israel, PM Netanyahu is receiving international backlash for his decision to proceed with the settlements, especially from a number of European countries, but it is thought this will actually help his re-election in Israel, since many Israelis view the United Nations and European governments as sympathetic towards Palestinians.

On the settlements, CNN reports:

Israel said Tuesday it won’t bow to demands by world leaders to abandon plans for new settlements on Palestinian territory.

“Israel will continue to stand by its essential interests even in the face of international pressure, and there will be no change in the decision that was taken,” the Israeli prime minister’s office said Tuesday.

The decision, which a senior Israeli official in the prime minister’s office said was in response to last week’s United Nations’ vote elevating the U.N. status of the Palestinian Authority, has drawn international ire and concern that it could complicate efforts to restart peace talks.

Israel plans to build 3,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, many of them in the large West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. Long-term plans call for the eventual construction of 5,000 units in the area.

Palestinian leaders object, saying the settlements are illegal and would slice the West Bank in two and cut it off from the proposed Palestinian capitol of East Jerusalem.

Israel has not yet formally acknowledged the plans.

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