Israel firm on expansion of settlements despite EU snub
Israel was defiant on Tuesday in the face of a serious diplomatic rift with five European countries over its plans to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, warning that it may take "additional steps" despite mounting international alarm that it was killing off any prospect of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.world Updated: Dec 05, 2012 01:26 IST
Israel was defiant on Tuesday in the face of a serious diplomatic rift with five European countries over its plans to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, warning that it may take "additional steps" despite mounting international alarm that it was killing off any prospect of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Israeli ambassadors to the UK, France, Sweden, Spain and Denmark were summoned to hear condemnation of plans to develop a highly sensitive expanse of land east of Jerusalem. The move signalled a widening gulf not just between Israel and Europe but also between Europe and the United States.
Despite growing international isolation, a source in the Israeli prime minister's office said: "We will continue to stand by our vital national interests against international pressure and there will be no change in the decision that was made."
The source added: "There should be no surprise that Israel will not stand idly by in the face of unilateral Palestinian steps. If they continue taking unilateral steps, Israel will act accordingly."
The sharp rebuke issued by the five nations followed an announcement last Friday that Israel would press ahead with plans to build settler homes that will close off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The move came hours after the Palestinians won recognition of their state at the United Nations general assembly.
Only eight countries out of 193 voted with Israel against Palestinian statehood. Despite vigorous efforts to win over European countries, only one - the Czech Republic - rallied to Israel's side.
The Israeli ambassador to Paris was formally told of France's "serious concerns" and reminded that "settlements are illegal under international law.
European countries were furious at Israel taking punitive measures in response to the UN vote.
A Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, welcomed the European diplomatic response. "For this to come from France and England is very beneficial to us. We highly appreciate it and we are hoping the US will follow their lead," he said.
However, there was no parallel move from Washington.