Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that the Israeli decision to escalate the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank is “A basic right to Israel and is not a punishment to the Palestinians for gaining full membership at the UNESCO.”Talking to the Knesset on Wednesday, Netanyahu stated that Israel is building in Jerusalem “because it has the right to do so.”

He also claimed that “Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of the state of Israel,” and that the city “will never go back to the state it was in before the six-day war in 1967.”

He was referring to the war in which Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, including East Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Ministerial Cabinet decided to escalate the construction of settlements in the occupied territories, including in illegally annexed East Jerusalem.

The decision came one day after the UNESCO voted for admitting Palestine as a full member, whereby 107 countries voted for Palestine, while 14 voted against admitting them to UNESCO, with 52 abstaining.

Despite claims by Netanyahu and his government that Israel is not punishing the Palestinians for seeking international recognition, Israel decided to withhold tax money that was supposed to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Among other countries, the Palestinian Authority, Britain, and France condemned the Israeli decision to construct thousands of units for Jewish settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, and its decision with withhold tax money. They said that the decision is a “sharp blow to all efforts to resume the peace process.”

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Bernard Valero, stated that France condemns the Israeli decision to build thousands of units for settlers in East Jerusalem and around it.

He added that settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under International Law, and jeopardize the efforts to achieve peace and a two-state solution.

British Foreign Minister, William Hague, described the Israeli decision as a provocation, and added that this decision will have a direct impact on efforts to maintain security in the West Bank.

Israel decided to build 1,650 homes for Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, in addition to hundreds of units in the illegal settlements of Efrat and Ma’ale Adumim, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.