News Column

Israeli Move Causes Diplomatic Fallout

Dec. 3, 2012

Israel's ambassadors were summoned to British and French foreign ministries to hear disapproval of plans to build new settlements in the West Bank.

The Israeli authorization of the construction of 3,000 residential units in East Jerusalem and across a section of the West Bank known as E1, between Jerusalem and the settlement town of Maale Adumin, effectively cuts the proposed nation of Palestine in two and complicates a two-state solution, the BBC said Monday.

It is Israel's response to a U.N. General Assembly vote last week granting permanent observer status to the Palestinian Authority, approved in the U.N. vote by Israel's European allies but opposed by the United States. Britain abstained from voting. The step-up in Palestinian prestige was described by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as an "attack on Zionism and the state of Israel."

While rhetoric was expected, the announcement of the construction plan was something of a diplomatic bombshell, the BBC said, noting the new settlements inhibit a contiguous Palestinian state and divides it from what Palestinians consider their future capital, Jerusalem.

U.S. presidents have been informed by Israeli governments construction would not proceed there, so Netanyahu is effectively turning his back on these assurances, the BBC said.

The development of the E1 had been frozen for years under pressure from the United States and the European Union, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Monday, adding the construction plan is seen as a "game-changer" by Western diplomats.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt met the Israeli ambassador in London Monday to voice his displeasure over the settlement plan.

Britain and France are poised to recall their Israeli envoys to protest the Israeli decision to add settlements, Haaretz reported.

"This time it won't just be a condemnation, there will be real action taken against Israel," a senior European diplomat told the Israeli newspaper.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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