The British and French governments today summoned Israeli envoys to protest against the decision to approve construction of 3,000 additional homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Foreign Office in London said in an e-mailed statement today that it deplored the Israeli decision, which “threatens the viability of the two-state solution.” It said it planned to discuss other possible measures with European Union partners and the U.S.
Israel announced the building project, which included the West Bank area known as E1, less than 24 hours after the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non- member observer state on Nov. 29. The E1 area, to the east of Jerusalem, is particularly sensitive. Israeli construction there may cut off Palestinians from their aspirational capital in east Jerusalem in a future peace accord. Israel says it has reserved the right to build in the area for the past 20 years.
“The Israeli ambassador to London, Daniel Taub, has been formally summoned to the Foreign Office this morning by the minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt,” according to the statement. “The minister set out the depth of the U.K.’s concerns.”
The French Foreign Ministry said Israel’s ambassador, Yossi Gal, had also been summoned. “The settlements are illegal under international law, hurt the confidence needed between the two sides and are an obstacle to a peace built on two states,” the ministry said in its daily e-mailed briefing. Germany also criticized the decision, which chief government spokesman Steffen Seibert said called into question Israel’s readiness to negotiate and “shrinks the geographic space for a Palestinian state.”
The U.K. and Germany last week abstained on the Palestinian motion at the UN General Assembly, while France supported the change.
Israel will continue to safeguard its essential interests in the face of international pressure and there will be no alteration of its decision, an official in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio that the Palestinian Authority had been cautioned against pursuing its UN bid by Europe and the U.S.
“They themselves -- the Americans and Europeans -- warned the Palestinian Authority not to take the unilateral step of going to the UN,” he said. “They told them you may benefit and hurt Israel in the UN, but you will be hurt on the ground. So what do you want us to do? Make them look ridiculous and that all they said has no value?”
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