Israel is rejecting pressure from European countries, as well as the United States, over its latest settlement construction, which was announced the day after the UN granted Palestine upgraded status as a non-member observer state.
Settlement construction has been a major source of contention between Israel and Palestine, reports Yahoo! News. The Palestinians walked away from peace talks four years ago when Israel refused to permanently stop construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both of which are Palestinian territories.
Europe has long considered these settlements illegal. Five European countries summoned Israeli ambassadors in their country on Monday to accuse Israel of further undermining the troubled peace efforts between the two countries as an unusually strong expression of displeasure towards the Jewish nation.
The criticism from France, Britain, Sweden, Spain, and Denmark comes at a time that Israel is already frustrated with European countries for abstaining from the UN vote for Palestine instead of voting against the motion. Reuters notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not caved to Europe’s pressure, stating during the weekly cabinet meeting:
“We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel’s strategic interests. The Palestinians’ unilateral step at the U.N. is a blatant and fundamental violation of the agreements vouched on by the international community. It should come as no surprise that Israel did not sit idly by following the Palestinians’ unilateral steps.”
Israel is not just planning 3,000 more settlement homes in the areas occupied by Palestine, it is also planning on building in the sensitive E-1 area outside Jerusalem that it has only refrained from building in because of continued US pressure. Building in the area would cut off the north and south parts of the West Bank, as well as Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians are hoping to use as the capital of their nation. The move would effectively kill Palestine’s hopes for becoming a unified nation.
The only statements by the US so far in the latest plan for new Israeli settlements have been from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who warned that the new settlement activities would “set back the cause of a negotiated peace” between the two groups.