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Diplomatic pressure on Israel

by: VOAnewscom and Ben Simons - Last updated: 2012-12-03

Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub

Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub

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Israel says it will not backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation.  

An official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Monday, "Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests, even in the face of international pressure."

He added "there will be no change in the decision that has been made."  

The UK, France, Sweden, Spain and Denmark summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their countries Monday to express disapproval of Israel's decision to develop a disputed area on occupied land near East Jerusalem.  

Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, was told by Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt that the government was concerned.

He said: “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."

He added: “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.”

French President Francois Hollande criticised the new Israeli settlement plans as contrary to peacemaking with Palestinians, but said Paris was not ready to impose sanctions on the Jewish state.  

The Israeli Cabinet Sunday authorized planning for the potential construction of 3,000 Jewish homes in a development that would involve linking East Jerusalem with Israel's main West Bank settlement.  

Details of the Israeli housing plan came after the UN General Assembly agreed to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to the status of non-member observer state at the world body.  

West Bank residents gave a warm welcome Sunday to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas upon his return from the United Nations. They said that for the first time the world body had formally adopted the word "state" alongside their name.   The Israeli government, which had opposed the UN vote, was especially stung by its loss of support among west European nations.

Most of them either voted for the resolution or abstained.   As the diplomatic rift intensifies between Israel and the international community, there is little evidence that the UN decision is changing relations between the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives over the dormant Mideast peace process.  

Abraham Diskin, an analyst at Israel's Inter-Disciplinary Center, said the UN vote was largely symbolic in that it represented change but did not help the Palestinian cause a great deal.   "It increases antagonism," he said. "Probably the only way to achieve some solution is by negotiation. And unilateral moves - either by Israel or the Palestinians - just create animosity and delay what should be done, which is direct negotiations."