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UK and France slam Israel's new settlement plan
Published Saturday 01/12/2012 (updated) 03/12/2012 11:01
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A section of the Israeli separation wall is seen between the Shufat
refugee camp and Pisgat Zeev in an area Israel illegally annexed
after capturing it in 1967.(Reuters/Baz Ratner)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Britain and France condemned on Saturday a plan by Israel to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying international confidence in its desire to make peace with the Palestinians was at risk.

Stung by a UN vote according de facto recognition to a Palestinian state, Israel on Friday said it would build thousands of new settler homes, including in a wedge zone between Jerusalem and the West Bank, known as E1, which Washington considers especially sensitive.

The United States, one of just eight countries to vote alongside Israel against the Palestinians at the UN General Assembly, said the latest expansion plan was counterproductive to any resumption of direct peace talks stalled for two years.

France, which voted with the Palestinians, and Britain, which abstained, had tougher censure for Israel, which wants to keep all of Jerusalem and swathes of West Bank settlements under any future peace accord. Most powers view the settlements as illegal for taking in land captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

"If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

"They would undermine Israel's international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians."

Manifest desire

Hague's French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, spoke of E1 as "the new colonization zone" and said the Israeli expansion plan could "drain the confidence needed for a return to dialogue".

"I call upon the Israeli authorities to abstain from any decision in this direction and to manifest clearly their desire to restart negotiations," Fabius said in a statement.

Israel says Thursday's upgrade of the Palestinians' status at the United Nations to "non-member state" from "entity" could allow them to sidestep disputes such as territorial demarcation that should be addressed in negotiations.

The Israelis were further incensed by what they deemed an inflammatory UN speech by President Mahmoud Abbas, and said the upgrade resolution neglected Israel's security and need for its own sovereignty to be recognized.

The Israeli settlement plan was disclosed to the media by officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government who spoke on condition of anonymity, a reticence suggesting the expansion had not been formally finalized.

Asked about the plan on Israel's Channel 2 television on Saturday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon denied it was in response to the Palestinians' UN upgrade.

"We are building, and we will continue to build, in accordance with our interest, not in accordance with the reaction of anyone else," Ayalon said.

Interviewed separately on Channel 2, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that, if implemented, the Israeli settlement plan would be "most detrimental" to peace prospects.

"The challenge to all of us now is to use what happened two days ago (UN upgrade), to build on it, rather than spend too much time either, you know, thinking 'This is the end of the road', which it isn't, from our point of view, or continue to sulk about it and express protestation and anger," he said.
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1 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
01/12/2012 22:11
What's really "most detrimental" to peace prospects? The fact that the PA cannot and will not negotiate a peace treaty with us. It's clear to everybody that Abbas can't negotiate a deal that includes Gaza (since Hamas refuses and is committed to war). It is also clear that no Palestinian leader will sign a deal that has 5 million "refugees" going to the west bank and Gaza, and not to Israel. And of course there's that small problem of the west bankers who simply don't want the refugees.

2 ) Colin Wright / USA
01/12/2012 22:56
'...international confidence in its desire to make peace with the Palestinians was at risk.' Speaking for myself, I have no doubts at all about Israel's desire to make peace. Israel wants peace like my cat would appreciate swimming lessons.

3 ) Amin / The Netherlands
02/12/2012 01:16
France and UK should take a strong stance against the continuing illegal expansion policy in occupied Palestine. If France and UK have respect for human rights and international law, then they need to act agaist this continuing flagrant violations of international law and UN resolutions and rethink their relation with Israel.

4 ) John Hillary / New Zealand
02/12/2012 04:25
Two things stand out in this report. Britain and France say nothing about this as being part of the continual thumbing the nose at international law. In contrast, that is precisely what Israel is full of; "in accordance with our interest, not in accordance with the reaction of anyone else".

5 ) Tissa / Sri Lanka
02/12/2012 09:19
This slamming is a pat on the back to say carry on boy regardless.

6 ) Alex / America
02/12/2012 09:35
Israeli people and their leaders have insisted for decades that Jerusalem is undivisible and shall remain unified as a capital of the reborn Jewish State. Period. No "ifd", or "buts" about it. So, just accept it and deal with the facts on the ground. Personally, I believe that Israelis made a major mistake after reuniting Jerusalem: they should have NEVER been so generously liberal with letting Jordanian Quaf to oversee Temple Mount! Thant's a problem to consider now!

7 ) shirley / australia
02/12/2012 12:45
what ajoke UK who voted NO says its concerned and France just voted yes to carry on more smoke and mirror games aginst ME PA should not have chased france none of these war criminals wnt to be held accountable for Iraq war and LIBYA and meddling Syria PA know full well CAMERON and HAGUE are US lackies and Isreali friends nothing under temple mountKEEP UP ALEX even Isreal admitted it

8 ) pabelmont / USA
02/12/2012 13:38
The puissant nations such as UK and France have gotten used to getting away with merely talking their disappointment with Israel. Such talk has gone on for 45 years. Meanwhile they all trade with Israel, maintain diplomatic relations, allow commercial airflights between their countries and Israel, etc. In short, their actions belie their occasional statements of disappointment. And when they speak all they call for is CESSATION of new settlement building, not of ROLLBACK of all existing ones.

9 ) Tony B? / ME
02/12/2012 14:26
France showed whose side it is on by its vote on the 29th November, so its biased views are irrelevant. The UK abstained, making its government's views irrelevant. So William Hague should keep his BS to himself. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. If you don't like that fact, you are welcome to try once again to change it. See where it gets you!

10 ) carlos / usa
02/12/2012 15:36
If you want a laugh read Brian Cohen/israel. The Palestinians have been negotiating for the last 20 years! or is it 30 years? israel has refused everything and has become more brutal and ridiculous. The settlements are teh only real problem to peace unless you want to count israels desire to steal more land as a real problem. I am encouraged Britaina nd France have forcefully condemned israels stupidity. I hope they follow up with action like sanctions. The Catholic Pope came out for Palestine 2

11 ) gabi / australia
03/12/2012 00:26
and Brian Cohen, I have suggested before that you read the Likud charter but you seem reluctant. That charter says there will be no Palestinian state ever. So who is it who is refusing to negotiate? Israel gives lip service to the words "all we want is peace" "all we want is a negotiated peace" and creates more settlements (also part of the Likud charter) and bides for time to create yet more comfortably housed settlers on stolen land. No-one believes you any more Brian, so stop blathering.

12 ) Sabrina / Canada
03/12/2012 00:54
Imagine if police didn’t arrest criminals, but sent them letters of ‘extreme concern’ and ‘condemnation’ instead? Israel announced it will be constructing another 3000 illegal Jewish settlement units in the West Bank and Jerusalem that will divide the West Bank into two separate areas. This is one of several ‘punishments’ the Israeli government has imposed in retaliation to Palestine’s UN recognition as a non-member observer state. The expansion of illegal settlements is a direct violation of
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