Britain, France Summon Israeli Envoys Over Settlement Plan

Posted December 3rd, 2012 at 7:30 am (UTC-5)
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Britain and France have summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their countries to express disapproval for Israel's decision to develop a disputed area near East Jerusalem.

Israel has authorized planning for the potential construction of 3,000 Jewish homes in a barren area that would involve linking East Jerusalem with Israel's main West Bank settlement.

The moves by Britain and France Monday follow earlier calls by both nations, as well as the United States and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for Israel to scrap the plan.

Mr. Ban calls the development an “almost fatal blow” to the chances of establishing peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He also says it risks “completely cutting off” East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent state that includes the West Bank. Israel has occupied both areas since the 1967 Middle East war and considers Jerusalem's eastern sector to be part of a “united” Israeli capital.

Israel's housing minister says actual construction of the new development could be years away, if it takes place at all.

Israel authorized the start of planning on Friday, a day after the U.N. General Assembly agreed to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to the status of non-member observer state at the world body. The U.N. backed the move by a vote of 138 in favor to nine against with 41 abstentions. The United States joined Israel in opposition.

At a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the status upgrade as a unilateral move that violates Palestinian agreements to negotiate with Israel over the creation of an independent state. He also vowed to continue building in Israeli-occupied parts of Jerusalem and “all places that appear on Israel's map of strategic interests.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a hero's welcome in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, as he returned from his U.N. General Assembly victory. He proclaimed that the Palestinians “now have a state,” as he addressed a gathering of about 5,000 people to wild applause.

Mr. Abbas said his next goal is to achieve national unity among Palestinians, who have been ruled by rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza since Hamas militants seized power in Gaza in 2007. The crowd responded by chanting for an “end to the division.”