British and Israeli envoys summonsed in settlement row

British and Israeli envoys summonsed in settlement row

Benjamin Netanyahu in East Jerusalem's Jewish settlement of Gilo.
Benjamin Netanyahu in East Jerusalem's Jewish settlement of Gilo.

Britain and Israel have summonsed each other’s diplomats amid escalating tension between the countries over settlement building and claims from Jerusalem that European states were guilty of a “perpetual one-sided stance”.

The broadside came after Israel’s ambassadors in Britain, France, Italy and Spain were called to the foreign ministries in each country on Thursday night over the announcement of new settlement tenders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank that they claim is threatening peace prospects. Jerusalem responded by summonsing envoys from those nations’ the following morning.

Making no secret of his anger at the moves by the UK and others, Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The European Union called in our ambassadors in the EU because of the construction of a few houses? When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about the incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction? About the fact that security officers in the Palestinian security forces are participating in terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis?” Claiming that adding “ a few houses in the existing communities doesn’t change the map one iota,” he added: “It’s time to inject some balance and fairness into this discussion.”

The Europeans’ move is thought to relate to this month’s announcement of advanced plans for 272 settlement units in the West Bank and published tenders for more than 1,000 new settlement units in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub was summonsed late in 2012 over settlements but this is thought to be the first time that diplomats from Britain and Israel have been summonsed in tit-for-tat moves.  It’s understand that, while British Ambassador Matthew Gould was away on Friday, his deputy met the acting director of Israel’s foreign ministry during which disquiet over recent EU moves were made clear.

A foreign office spokesman said its most senior civil servant used the meeting with Taub to make “clear that settlement announcements had a detrimental impact on an atmosphere conducive to productive talks. The UK urged Israel to refrain from further such announcements”.

It also welcomed the recent signs of progress for in peace talks and vowed to continuing lobbying for the unprecedented EU package of support for Israel and the Palestinians in the event of a deal.

A statement from Israel’s London Embassy saying the goal of the current negotiations was to solve all issues including settlements, stating “in order to achieve this goal, Israel is taking significant and difficult steps, including the release of dozens of Palestinians convicted of the murder of Israeli citizens.  Israel urges all international parties to fully support the negotiation process, and not place disproportionate emphasis on any single issue in a way that may serve as an excuse to delay and avoid making the tough decisions that are needed.”

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