UK & World News

  • 3 December 2012, 21:40

Foreign Office Summons Israel's Ambassador

Israel's ambassador to the UK was summoned to the Foreign Office in a diplomatic protest at the country's settlement building plans.

The Foreign Office said it had made clear to Daniel Taub "the depth of the UK's concerns" about proposals to build 3,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The move, which would see homes built on the controversial E1 area, could effectively cut off Palestinians in East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, ending hopes for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The US State Department was also critical of Israel's actions, saying that it "opposes all unilateral actions".

"This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution," said deputy spokesman Mark Toner.

"We have made clear to the Israeli government that such action is contrary to US policy."

Despite the diplomatic action, Israel looks set to resist international pressure, according to a source in the Israeli Prime Minister's office.

The source told theAFP news agency: "Israel continues to insist on its vital interests, even under international pressure. There will be no change in the decision that has been made."

The head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has warned that the Israeli decision to approve plans for settlement building was an "almost fatal blow" for peace hopes.

Both the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have condemned the plan as "illegal" and said it casts doubts on Israel's commitment to peace.

Speaking after meeting Mr Taub, Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, said he had called on Israel to reverse its decision on settlement building.

He said: "I also made clear that the strength of our reaction stems from our disappointment that the Israeli government has not heeded the calls that we and others had made for Israel to avoid reacting to the UN General Assembly resolution in a way that undermines the Palestinian Authority or a return to talks."

France also summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Paris to the French foreign ministry.

David Cameron said the UK government was "not proposing to do anything further at this stage".

He said: "We are continuing to have conversations with the Israeli government and others. We are consulting with international partners and discussing the situation with the Israeli government."

Sam Kiley, Sky News' Middle East Correspondent, said: "What they are saying to Israel is that we are very angry about this, we are sincere we don't want to see any of these settlements continue to expand because, as Ban Ki-moon said yesterday, it will be a fatal blow to the peace process."

The E1 area of East Jerusalem is a 4.6 square mile area, which is largely uninhabited. Israel has been under pressure from the international community, especially the US, not to build homes there.

This is because any settlement will effectively cut the West Bank in two and prevent a contiguous Palestinian state.

Israel has built 100 settlements since its occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank - development that is considered illegal under international law.

Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu approved the settlement proposal just 24 hours after the UN agreed to officially recognise a Palestinian state, entitling the Palestinians to take part in UN debates.

The decision was opposed by the US and Britain abstained from the vote, with Mr Hague saying he could only back the move if the Palestinians agreed to return to peace talks immediately.

Mr Netanyahu has also announced a freeze on the tax revenue that the Israelis collect then pass back to the Palestinians.

Matthew Gould was appointed as Britain's first Jewish Ambassador to Israel in September 2010.

On taking up the post he said: "We come out determined to help build the strongest possible partnership between Britain and Israel, and to help ensure that Britain and Europe do everything they can to help the people of Israel move forward on the difficult path towards peace and lasting security."

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