Dec 3, 2012 No Comments ›› Infidel
JERUSALEM — Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their countries on Monday to protest Israel’s plans for increased settlement construction, an unusually sharp diplomatic step that reflected the growing frustration abroad with Israel’s policies on the Palestinian issue.
After the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly last week to upgrade the status of the Palestinians at the United Nations, Israel announced plans for 3,000 more housing units in contested areas east of Jerusalem and around the West Bank.
Israel raised particular alarms with its decision to continue planning and zoning work for the development of a contentious area known as E1, a project vehemently opposed internationally because it would partially separate the northern and southern West Bank, harming the prospects of a contiguous Palestinian state.
The move raised questions in Israel about whether the country’s leaders were putting domestic political interests ahead of its foreign relations, with Israeli elections scheduled for late January.
“Bibi had to do something” in response to the United Nations vote, said Prof. Shmuel Sandler of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan Universiy, referring to the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname, “first because he is Bibi and second because of the elections.”
Mr. Sandler said that Mr. Netanyahu, a conservative, was making the mistake of competing against those further to his right, adding, “But I don’t think he expected such a reaction” internationally.
Yet Israel remained defiant. The prime minister’s office issued a statement on Monday, saying, “Israel will continue to stand for its essential interests, even in the face of international pressure, and there will be no change in the decision it has taken.”
A press officer for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Sunday that construction in E1 “would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution.”
European countries long opposed to Israeli settlement construction went beyond their usual statements of condemnation.
The countries that called in the Israeli ambassadors “expressed their strong protests about the announced settlement plans,” said Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Mr. Palmor said that the Israeli ambassadors told their hosts that Israel has been warning for months that the Palestinian bid at the United Nations would not go unanswered and would have implications.
Israel has described the bid as a unilateral Palestinian step that violates previous signed agreements. The Palestinians have long refused to negotiate with Israel without a halt in settlement construction.
France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark voted for the Palestinian upgrade, while Britain abstained. Although Israel had expected the resolution to pass, officials here expressed disappointment over the lack of support from several friendly European nations. Israel was particularly surprised by Germany’s decision to abstain in the vote, having expected Germany to go with Israel.