UK and France summon Israeli envoys in settlements row

 
The E1 area overlooking the Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim, 1 Dec The E1 area, between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, appears the most contentious

Britain and France have both summoned Israeli ambassadors in protest at Israel's decision to approve the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The UK said the move would cast doubt on Israel's "stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians".

Israel authorised the 3,000 additional housing units a day after the UN voted to upgrade Palestinian status.

An official close to the prime minister said Israel would not change its mind.

"Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests, even in the face of international pressure, and there will be no change in the decision that was made," an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

Sweden has also summoned the Israeli ambassador, while Russia and Germany have expressed their opposition to the settlement plans.

The UN has warned the homes would be "an almost fatal blow" to peace hopes.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu: "We will continue building in Jerusalem and anywhere on Israel's strategic map"

'Preliminary zoning'

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it was urging Israel to reconsider, and threatened a "strong reaction" if the homes went ahead.

It said: "We deplore the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block. This threatens the viability of the two state solution."

Plans for construction in the E1 area - between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim - are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say such development will prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier warned that the E1 plans would have to be rescinded.

Analysis

The British and French governments have made their displeasure at Israel's latest settlement announcement clear, and there are hints that further steps could be taken.

The threat to build in the area designated E1, east of Jerusalem, has especially annoyed Western governments - indeed, successive US administrations have been given assurances by Israel that it would not build there. Construction in E1 would pose a major obstacle to a contiguous Palestinian state on the West Bank and divide such an entity from Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as their future capital.

Indications from Israel had suggested that its initial response to the UN General Assembly vote granting the Palestinians permanent observer status would be largely rhetorical. There's a sense in the air that the diplomatic climate is changing but no real evidence as yet that Washington - the critical player - is again ready to invest in the elusive quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"It would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution," Mr Ban said.

An Israeli official has described the proposals in the E1 zone as "preliminary zoning and planning work".

The Israeli envoy to Paris was summoned to a meeting on Monday morning, French foreign ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot, said in a statement.

The BBC's Peter Biles says the UK is coordinating closely with France in sending a clear warning signal to Israel, but he says a suggestion in the Israeli press that Britain and France may recall their ambassadors in protest seems unlikely at this stage.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin: "Israel is undermining faith in its willingness to negotiate and the geographic space for a future Palestinian state, which must be the basis for a two-state solution, is disappearing."

The Russian foreign ministry website said the move would have "a most adverse impact" on peace.

Israel has condemned the Palestinians' diplomatic move at the UN as a "gross violation" of previous agreements with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also brushed off criticism of the settlement plans.

"We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel's strategic interests," he said.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Two decades of on-off negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have failed to produce a permanent settlement, with the latest round of direct negotiations breaking down in 2010.

Map showing E1 settlement in relation to West Bank and Jerusalem
 

More on This Story

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 732.

    "UK and France summon Israeli envoys in settlements row".

    Er...and Spain, too...:

    [Unsuitable URL removed by Moderator]

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 731.

    The actions of Israel, at this moment in time, makes them in the top 10 of the most uncivilised , barbaric , evil nations on the planet. The UN vote was very positive & I think is a symptom of the fact the rest of the world is actually sick of this situation in 2012 from a so called developed country. The international community needs to isolate Israel until they start to act in a humane fashion.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 730.

    When will the world wake up to the fact that the Palastinians never owned that land! They rejected the 2 statle solution in 1948 and waged a war in 1967 resulting in the Israelies settling (might I add, again) in the west bank - their own land that was taken from them so many years ago, and the land which they never gave up hope to return to.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 729.

    The main barrier to a two state settlement is the failure of Mr Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish State and come to the negotiating table. Yet another opportunity has been lost by the Palestinian leaders failing to recognize the reality of Israel.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 728.

    Can the BBC ban all these religious loonies from commenting? The reality is that you have a real world conflict, which most sane minded people would like to see resolved, but there's always a bunch of wannabe Nostradamus' pulling Bible verses out of their backsides to try and convince us all the world is going to end. Grow up people.

 

Comments 5 of 732

 

More Middle East stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.