MIDDLE EAST

Madrid joins EU protest against Israeli development decision

London, Paris and Stockholm also summon ambassadors over plan to build in occupied East Jerusalem

Agencies
London / Jerusalem -

Britain, France, Sweden and Spain have summoned the Israeli ambassadors to the four nations to protest against the decision of the Tel Aviv government to proceed with a plan to build 3,000 homes in the occupied territory of the so called E-1 zone in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu approved the project on Sunday in retaliation for the UN General Assembly’s upgrading of Palestine from observer entity to non-member state.

The British Foreign Office’s parliamentary undersecretary of state, Alistair Burt, expressed the UK’s “profound concern” over Tel Aviv’s stance.

Israel has committed a major blunder” Foreign Minister García-Margallo

“We deplore the recent Israeli decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block,” he said. “We have called on the Israeli government to reverse the decision.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the settlement plan signaled “an almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“We don’t want to shift into sanctions mode. We are more focused on persuasion,” French President François Hollande said at a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Mario Monti.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said Israel has committed a “major blunder.”

“The Israeli government has done exactly the two things that the European Union asked it not to,” the Spanish diplomat said in reference to the construction plan and the freezing of funds that Israel collects in tax receipts from Palestine and then passes on to Ramallah, which uses them to pay civil servants.

Israel attempted to play down the diplomatic reproach carried out by European nations: “We have very good relationships with these countries. They have criticized our decision; that is in the public domain, and neither are we particularly happy with the UN vote,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschon.

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