As Israel pursues settlement plan, international objections grow louder

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives at the Chancellery in Berlin, on 6 December 6 2012 before taking part in a joint meeting of the cabinets of both countries amid diplomatic tensions over settlement building and Berlin's abstention in the UN's recent Palestine vote. (Photo: AFP - Johannes Eisele)

Published Thursday, December 6, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Thursday that the Jewish state will move forward with plans to build 3,000 settlement homes in the West Bank, despite growing international condemnations.

“Most governments who have looked at these proposals over the years including the Palestinians themselves...understand that these blocs...are going to be part of Israel in a final political settlement of peace," Netanyahu said of the planned settlements in the E1 corridor near East Jerusalem.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate international law and undermine the possibility of a viable state in the West Bank.The plans are openly in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority’s successful bid to update its status to that of “observer state” in the UN.

Netanyahu’s statement came after a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. While Germany abstained during the UN General Assembly vote on November 29, Merkel criticized Israel’s settlement policy.

"On the question of settlements, we are agreed that we are not agreed," Merkel said in a joint press conference with Netanyahu.

“We believe that work towards a two-state solution must be continued...unilateral measures should be avoided," she added.

As news spread of the Israeli plans to expand in the once off-limits E1 corridor, the European Union reacted in what has been described as a “political tsunami” by the Israeli press. France, Britain, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and the EU itself have all summoned the Israeli ambassadors to protest the settlement plans.

The wave of ambassador summonings comes a week after more than a dozen European countries declared, in rapid succession, their support for the status upgrade of Palestine in the UN.

“The Europeans have removed the kid gloves,” a senior Israeli diplomat told the Yediot Aharonot, as Shimon Shiffer, a commentator for the newspaper, spoke of a “new era” for European countries, now standing up against Israeli wrongdoings in occupied territories.

South Africa, Australia and Egypt also called in their Israeli ambassadors, while Russia and Japan criticized the settlement plan. The South African move was seen as particularly symbolic, given the state’s apartheid past.

Even Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States, has been reportedly angered by the Israeli plan, which is seen as retribution against the Obama administration’s refusal to reaffirm a 2004 letter on settlement blocs.

“It wasn’t just retribution at the UN, it was retribution at the US as well,” former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer told Haaretz on Monday, calling the move a “low blow.”

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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