Britain, France and Sweden have summoned Israeli ambassadors to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to build 3,000 more houses in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, local news outlets reported on Monday.
The plan, announced on Friday, was confirmed by an official source as retaliation for Palestine successfully upgrading its status at the United Nations from an observer entity to a non-member observer state, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Bedouins ride donkeys in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem Dec 3, 2012. Israel will not backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation, an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Monday. [Photo/Agencies]
The move has sparked a storm of high-level diplomatic protests from Moscow, Washington and Brussels as well as from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who on Sunday warned it would deal an "almost fatal blow" to the prospects of resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
On Monday morning, the Jewish country's envoys in Paris and London, Daniel Taub and Yossi Gal, were summoned for consultations over the new settlement plan.
Both British and French embassies in Israel declined to comment on the consultations, but the UK issued a statement saying it had made clear it would not support strong Israeli retaliation to a UN vote last week that gave the Palestinians de facto recognition of statehood.
"The recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units threatens the two-state solution and makes progress through negotiations harder to achieve," the British embassy in Tel Aviv said. "We have called on the Israeli government to reconsider."
It was reported that London would decide later in the day whether to recall its ambassador.
China on Monday opposed Israel's construction of settlements. "We urge the Israeli side to take substantial steps to eliminate obstacles to peace talks with Palestine and create necessary conditions to rebuild mutual trust and relaunch the peace talks at an early date," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
But an official in Netanyahu's office said on Monday that Israel will not backtrack on a settlement expansion plan.