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Protesting Israeli Settlement Plan: Britain and France Mull Recalling Ambassadors

Israel's plan to expand settlement construction has drawn fierce international criticism, with Britain and France considering the withdrawal of their ambassadors and Germany expressing serious concern. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the plan could deal an "almost fatal blow" to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Palestinian shepherd near the Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. Israel intends to carry out settlement building in this area. Zoom

A Palestinian shepherd near the Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. Israel intends to carry out settlement building in this area.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday sharply criticized the Israeli government's plan to expand settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, calling the plan an "an almost fatal blow" to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Monday, Britain and France said they were considering measures to protest against the decision, which came in the wake of the United Nations' de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood last week.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Palestinians want for a future state.

According to Reuters, diplomatic sources said that both London and Paris were considering the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassadors to Tel Aviv. But both countries signalled they may refrain from going that far.

"There are other ways in which we can express our disapproval," a French Foreign Ministry official said. Both the British and French governments called in the Israeli ambassadors to Paris to voice their concerns.

'Undermining Confidence'

"Any decision about any other measures the UK might take will depend on the outcome of our discussions with the Israeli government and with international partners including the US and European Union," a spokesman for the British Foreign Office said.

"We deplore the recent Israeli decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block," a Foreign Office spokesman said. The so-called "E1" zone refers to a stretch of land northeast of Jerusalem where Israel has a plan to build housing units linking Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. The plan has never been put into motion due to opposition from Israel's main ally, the US. If carried out, it would bisect the West Bank and cut off Palestinians from Jerusalem. "We have called on the Israeli government to reverse the decision," said the Foreign Office spokesman.

If Britain and France withdraw their ambassadors, it will amount to a major diplomatic criticism of Israel's policy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also found unusually strong words. Her spokesman said the government was "extremely concerned" about the settlement plans. "Israel is thereby undermining confidence in its readiness to negotiate."

cro -- with wire reports


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