Britain considers recalling ambassador to Israel over plans to build 3,000 new settler homesBuilding in the area, known as E1, would sever the link between the West Bank and east JerusalemToday France summoned Israel's envoy in Paris for a meeting but played down reports it could recall its ambassador to Israel
Decision to build was first indication of Israeli anger after the vote on Palestinian status was held at the UN last week
01:37 GMT, 4 December 2012
The Israeli ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office yesterday for a dressing-down over his country's settlement policy.
Middle East minister Alistair Burt told Daniel Taub that Israel will kill the prospects of a two-state solution to the peace process if it builds 3,000 homes on a tract of land called E1 near Jerusalem.
Foreign Secretary William Hague is planning talks wth US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and European allies to get Israel to back down.
Building work: A Palestinian man works at a new housing development in the Jewish West Bank settlement near Jerusalem
Plans: Israel has a master plan to build 3,600 apartments and 10 hotels on the section of territory east of Jerusalem known as E1
Worthless: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the vote is meaningless
Officials described reports that the
British ambassador could be withdrawn if the scheme for 3,000 new homes
in the West Bank and East Jerusalem goes ahead as 'speculation'.
a Foreign Office spokesman made clear that they believe the Israeli
government should think again before going ahead with the plan which
threatens to wreck any prospect of reviving the stalled Middle East
'The Foreign Secretary has
consistently made clear that settlement building, such as the recent
Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new Israeli housing units,
threatens a two-state solution and make progress through negotiations
harder to achieve,' he said.
'We have called on the Israeli
government to re-consider. We have told the Israeli government that if
they go ahead with their decision there will be a strong reaction.'
Today France summoned Israel's envoy in Paris for a meeting but played down reports it could recall its ambassador to Israel.
'The ambassador has been summoned in order to express our disapproval,' foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said.
The Israeli embassy also confirmed the meeting.
'There are other ways in which we can express our disapproval,' said the official who made it clear Paris was looking at other ways of putting pressure on Netanyahu.
The British issued a
statement saying they had made clear they would not support strong
Israeli retaliation to a U.N. vote last week that gave the Palestinians
de facto recognition of statehood.
A diplomatic source, who declined to be named, said London would decide later in the day whether to recall its ambassador.
Such a move by both London and Paris would represent a severe diplomatic reproach to Netanyahu.
Building in the area, known as E1,
would sever the link between the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the
sector of the holy city the Palestinians claim for a future capital, and
cut off the northern part of the West Bank form its southern flank.
The Palestinians claim such a scenario would essentially kill any hope for the creation of a viable state.
Israel's Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israeli Army Radio he was not aware of any recall of a British ambassador.
'I did not hear of this, either via
the foreign ministry or the prime minister's office. Therefore I have a
hard time believing it is true,' he said.
Homecoming: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, waves to the crowd during celebrations for their successful bid to win U.N. statehood recognition in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday
Palestinians hold pictures of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as they celebrate their successful bid to win U.N. statehood recognition in the West Bank city of Ramallah
has brushed off world condemnation of his latest settlement plans,
which were announced on Friday just hours after the United Nations voted
overwhelming to upgrade the Palestinians' diplomatic status.
The United Nations General Assembly
last week overwhelmingly endorsed an independent Palestinian state in
the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel
captured in the 1967 war.
The move to upgrade the Palestinians to a nonmember observer state does not change much on the ground, but it carries deep potential significance.
The vote amounted to an international endorsement of the Palestinian position on future border arrangements with Israel and an overwhelming condemnation of Israeli settlements in the areas claimed by the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a return to Israel's 1967 lines.
Israel remains in control in parts of the West Bank and considers east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital, an integral part of its capital.
Resounding endorsement: Palestinians wave a flag and a Quran in celebration
Abbas has returned home to a hero's welcome after winning a resounding endorsement for Palestinian independence at the United Nations
Some 5,000 people gathered outside the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah
'We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel's strategic interests,' Netanyahu said on Sunday at a weekly cabinet meeting.
Besides authorising 3,000 new homes in and around Jerusalem, the Israeli government also agreed to expedite planning work for thousands more homes on barren land near Jerusalem that critics say would kill off Palestinian hopes of creating a viable state.
On Sunday, the Israeli government delivered another blow, saying it would withhold more than $100 million in funds it transfers to the Palestinians each month.
Instead, it said the money – taxes and customs duties that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians – would be used to pay off its debts to Israeli companies, including $200 million owed to the state-run Israel Electric Corp., government officials said.
The monthly transfers are crucial for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority to pay salaries to its tens of thousands of civil servants and security forces. Israel has taken similar measures in the past before eventually releasing the money.
Jubilant: Members of the Palestinian delegation and others join Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by applauding during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after the vote
Palestinians celebrate on a street in Gaza City after the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state
Meanwhile thousands of cheering supporters turned out to welcome Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas back to the West Bank after his people were handed acceptance to the United Nations.
Outside the headquarters of President Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, some 5,000 people thronged a square, hoisted Palestinian flags and cheered their leader's return from New York. Large posters of the Palestinian leader, whose popularity had plummeted in recent months, adorned nearby buildings.
'We now have a state,' Abbas said to wild applause. 'The world has said loudly, `Yes to the state of Palestine.''