UK and France summon Israeli envoys in settlements row


Britain and France have both summoned Israeli ambassadors in protest at Israel’s decision to approve the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The UK said the move would cast doubt on Israel’s “stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians”. Israel authorised the 3,000 additional housing units a day after the UN voted to upgrade Palestinian status. The UN warned the homes would be “an almost fatal blow” to peace hopes. Sweden also summoned the Israeli ambassador, while Russia and Germany expressed their opposition to the settlement plans.
In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it was urging Israel to reconsider, and threatened a “strong reaction” if the homes went ahead.
It said: “We deplore the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block. This threatens the viability of the two state solution.”
Plans for construction in the E1 area – between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim – are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say such development will prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier warned that the E1 plans would have to be rescinded.
“It would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution,” Mr Ban said. An Israeli official has described the proposals in the E1 zone as “preliminary zoning and planning work”. The Israeli envoy to Paris was summoned to a meeting on Monday morning, French foreign ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot, said in a statement.