International criticism has been mounting against Israeli plans to build new settlements. The UK and France summoned their Israeli ambassadors to get clarification and show disapproval amid reports of recalls. Other countries also spoke out.
International reaction against Israel has been heated, but an official from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says the country will not back down.
Britain is reportedly considering a strong reaction to Israel’s plans and has summoned Israeli ambassador for talks over planned settlements, asking for clarification on the issue. However, conflicting reports say that Britain has denied consideration for recalling its ambassador to Israel.
British Foreign Office spokesperson told AFP that “the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units threatens the two-state solution and makes progress through negotiations harder to achieve.”
France, which was the first major European country to announce support for Palestinian recognition at the UN, echoed the position of the UK. Paris sent a letter to the Israeli government, calling the settlement decision “a considerable obstacle to the two-state solution.”
France and Sweden also consulted their ambassadors to Israel to decide on measures to show their disapproval. However, French President Francois Hollande says he does not want to impose sanctions on Israel.
These moves come amid speculation both countries could recall their ambassadors. But France has reportedly downplayed recalling its Israeli ambassador, arguing there other ways to show disapproval.
The three European diplomats who spoke to Haaretz indicated that London and Paris were coordinating their moves against Israel.
“This time it won’t just be a condemnation, there will be real action taken against Israel,” a senior European diplomat said.
The action, whatever it may be, could be implemented in the next few days. “London is furious about the E1 decision,”one of the diplomats said.
According to the reports, Britain and France already informed the United States and other European countries, including Germany, of their intentions.
International reaction was triggered after Netanyahu ordered the construction of thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements in the area known as E1, between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem – a step widely seen as retaliation forrecognition of Palestine as non-member state by the United Nations.
The new settlements would completely cut off Palestinians in East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, UN head Ban Ki-moon stated.
“It would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution.”
Also Germany has joined in and asked Israel to refrain from proceeding with settlement building.
“We appeal to the Israeli government to desist from this procedure,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a news conference.
Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt criticized Israel on his blog. “The Israeli government’s plan is pure vengeance against the Palestinians following the UN vote.Israel’s decisions to halt tax payment transfers and to extend illegal settlements around Jerusalem might dramatically escalate the situation,” he said.
In addition, Turkey strongly condemned Israel’s plans and demanded to stop construction.
“Israel’s illegal settlement activities intentionally deprive conditions of lasting peace in the region,” said a statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has also issued a statement saying it is very concerned with Israel’s plans and is asking Israel “to reconsider its plans regarding the new settlements and transfer the money to Palestine,” referring to the tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of Palestinians.
During the weekend, Israel canceled the transfer of US$120 million collected in taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in an apparent response to the Palestinian UN-bid.
On Sunday Netanyahu clarified his stance on building new settlements, stating that the Israeli government gave the green light to zoning and planning, but not construction in East Jerusalem.
“We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel’s strategic interests,”Netanyahu said.
This move meant to signal to the Palestinians that if they continue unilateral actions, such as the one with the UN-bid Thursday, Israel would move forward with actually building the settlements, Jerusalem Post reported.
But the settler population isn’t convinced that Netanyahu will follow through with his plans.
“The settler population does not believe that Netanyahu will go ahead with building these units. They believe it’s almost a cheap move by Netanyahu to try to gain support ahead of January’s elections and that this is an internal matter to try to build votes,” RT correspondent Paula Slier, who is in Tel Aviv, reported.
The construction of the new settlements in the E1 area connecting the Israeli settlement Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem could become a big obstacle for the future any Palestinian state as it would prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank.