Israeli ambassadors summoned in protest at new settlement plans


A Jewish settler raises an Israeli flag at the E1 settlement area on December 9, 2007, near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank.


Uriel Sinai

The UK, France and Sweden have formally summoned Israeli ambassadors to protest against plans to build new settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the BBC reports.

Denmark and Spain also called in diplomats, according to the Guardian.

They are the latest countries to condemn Israel's decision to give permission for 3,000 settler homes, some of them in the contentious E1 block, that if completed would divide the West Bank in two.

The move "threatens the viability of the two-state solution," Britain's Foreign Office said, while France's Foreign Ministry called it illegal under international law, damaging to mutual trust and "an obstacle to fair peace."

Both London and Paris denied rumors that they were considering taking the unprecedented step of recalling their envoys to Israel over the matter. A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said the government would continue holding talks with Israel and other countries before taking further action, the Guardian reported.

Meanwhile French President François Hollande said he did not want to impose sanctions on Israel, according to Reuters: "We are more focused on convincing," Hollande said.

More from GlobalPost: Is Israel's West Bank expansion political suicide?

Germany and Russia also publicly deplored Israel's plans today, the BBC said, while the European Union and the United Nations have already expressed their concern. The US also harshly criticized its ally, with the White House and State Department saying that the settlement plans ran counter to US policy.

"We reiterate our long standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction," said White House press secretary Jay Carney, according to the Associated Press. "We oppose all unilateral actions, including settlement activity and housing construction as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations and this including building in the so called E-1 area."

"We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two state solution," said Carney.

Senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told the AP that Palestinians "highly appreciate" the European governments' protests and hoped that the US would "follow their lead" in summoning Israel's envoy.

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky describes it as one of the worst diplomatic crises in Israel's history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has angered even his closest allies with his controversially timed decision, she writes: "Coming Friday, one day after the UN General Assembly voted to grant Palestine an enhanced status, non-voting observer member state, which Israel had decried as a unilateral move and a blatant violation of the Oslo Accords, it is widely seen as retribution against the Palestinian government."

Yet Netanyahu, who faces an election on Jan. 22, remains defiant. Reuters cited one of his aides as saying today: "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."

More from GlobalPost: White House condemns Israel's plans for new settlements