Israeli settlement plans 'threaten two-state solution'

Britain and other EU governments warn Netanyahu he may lose Western support, amid reports that trade deals may be cancelled and ambassadors recalled

Britain and other Western states were locked in an escalating diplomatic confrontation with Israel tonight over plans by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to build thousands of homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Israeli envoys to Britain, France, Spain and Sweden were warned that going ahead with the project could jeopardise the peace process and erode Western support for the Jewish state. The UK is also said to be considering cancelling some trade deals and, while reports that the UK and France may withdraw their own ambassadors were played down, officials in London and Paris maintained that the option was on the table.

The settlement plan was presented in Israel as a reaction to Fatah’s successful bid for recognition by the United Nations General Assembly as a “non-member observer state” last week. But the construction of 3,000 homes, particularly in the E1 area, north-east of Jerusalem, would effectively bisect the West Bank and further damage Palestinian aspirations of sharing Jerusalem in a future two-state solution.

There is anger that Israel has ignored the West’s repeated requests not to go ahead with the settlement plans despite being given widespread support during its offensive in Gaza. Furthermore, senior diplomats say, the Israelis were fully aware that the backing for Hamas had risen after its rockets hit Tel Aviv and a district of Jerusalem - at the expense of the Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas - and going ahead with the construction would further undermine him and the PA. The Israelis were already withholding around £75m needed by the PA to pay civil servants with the Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz openly stating this was in retaliation for the UN move.

The Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt, said: “This morning I met the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, who was formally summoned to the Foreign Office.

“Mr Taub was summoned following the Israeli decisions to build 3,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, to unfreeze planning in the area known as E1 and to withhold tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority. I set out the depth of the UK’s concern about these decisions and I called on the Israeli government to reverse them. The settlements plan in particular has the potential to alter the situation on the ground on a scale that threatens the viability of a two-state solution.

“I also made clear that the strength of our reaction stems from our disappointment that the Israeli government has not heeded the calls that we and others had made for Israel to avoid reacting to the UN General Assembly resolution in a way that undermines the Palestinian Authority or a return to talks.”

The settlement plan had already been condemned by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. And the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated the deal would be “an almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution. The EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, stressed such expansion “may represent a strategic step undermining the prospects of a contiguous and viable Palestine with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both it and Israel”.

In Paris, France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said Israel’s plans were a “new area of colonisation” and, if confirmed, would “sap the necessary confidence in a resumption of talks”.

Israel, however, remained unrepentant. Mr Steinitz said his government could not have remained indifferent to the Palestinians’ unilateral move at the UN. “I want to tell you that those same Europeans and Americans who are now telling us ‘naughty, naughty’ over our response understand full well that we have to respond, and they themselves warned the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

Yesterday the contentious area, E1, was deserted. There are street lights, electricity cables and water mains, but no houses.

“E1 sits smack in the middle of East Jerusalem, bifurcating the contiguity of land on which the future of a Palestinian state depends, creating two cantons out of the West Bank. This is why E1 is known as the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution,” said Betty Herschman of Ir Amim, a pressure group that advocates co-existence in Jerusalem.

The plans announced this weekend will take at least a year to wind through the Israeli bureaucracy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?