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
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own