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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier warned that the E1 plans would have to be rescinded.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

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  • rate this
    +102

    Comment number 5.

    So the UN voted to upgrade Palestinian status and Isreal immediately announces this in some playground response? Shame the consequences of childish petulant behaviour are so catastrophic and tragic.

    Grow up Isreal, you're embarrassing yourselves.

  • rate this
    +85

    Comment number 2.

    The international community need to be more forceful with Israel and say "If you don't stop these illegal acts then you will incur suspension of your arms agreements and isolation from the international stage".
    Israel can't afford to go it alone with 'enemies' on all sides, and if they did they'd be signing their own death warrant. They need to be brought into line.

  • rate this
    +82

    Comment number 7.

    What a spiteful little country, just because the rest of the world thinks Palestine should have recognition they have now decide to steal enough land to build 3000 plus 1000 houses and other things they want plus tax $120 million in owed taxes to pay a private company. Remember someone did this in 1939 which the rest of the world is still paying for.

  • rate this
    +73

    Comment number 26.

    @ 10 Shirlgirl
    How dare you called people anti-semitic just because they have a point of view! You forget that the vast majority of the UK can see the truth, and will comment on the truth as they see it! That is a very nasty thing you are calling us individuals who disagree with Israels action. Next you will be saying that the 138 countries that voted for Palestine at the UN are anti-semitic!

  • rate this
    +71

    Comment number 4.

    They wont listen to France or The UK. The US is the one that needs to say no, and I highly doubt they will. Israel will keep doing whatever they want and nobody will stop them.

 

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