Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered his ministry Friday morning to summon the ambassadors from the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain to Jerusalem, in order to protest what he called “one-sided” policies against Israel.
These policies, evidently relating to Israel’s settlement-building, are “unacceptable, and give the sense that they are just looking for ways to blame Israel,” read a statement released Friday by Liberman’s office.
Liberman also instructed his office to tell the European ambassadors that Israel is making a major effort to enable the talks with the Palestinians to continue, and that their countries’ policies harm the chances of reaching a settlement between the sides.
The move comes a day after Israeli ambassadors in several European capitals, including London, Rome and Paris, were called in by their host countries to hear complaints over last week’s announcement from the Ministry of Housing and Construction that it had approved tenders for 1,400 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
The announcement had been expected after Israel released 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in late December, part of a deal made last summer when Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed.
In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that expanding existing Jewish settlements does not impede the peace talks with the Palestinians.
“I don’t think it’s an obstacle to peace at all,” Netanyahu said at an event organized by the Government Press Office in Jerusalem. “Because the fact is that Jews live here on this land. I mean, what do they want, an ethnically cleansed state? They want to uproot people? I don’t think that’s going to advance peace.”
Netanyahu said the move by some EU states to summon Israeli ambassadors was hypocritical:
“The European Union called in our ambassadors in the EU because of the construction of a few houses? When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about the incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction? When do the Palestinian ambassadors get called in to hear complaints about the fact that security officers in the Palestinian security forces are participating in terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis?”
Addressing foreign journalists and diplomats at the event, Netanyahu also said that condemnations of Israeli settlement expansion during the current US-brokered peace talks are unfair, because it was known in advance that construction would continue even during the negotiations.
“We’re keeping in line exactly with the understanding that we undertook at the beginning of the talks,” the prime minister said, asserting that it was “clear that Israel undertook no restraints” on construction. “That was understood,” he expressed. “So when people tell me that these negotiations are hampered by this, [they need to remember] that was part of the deal. Unspoken, unwritten, informal, everybody will say that they oppose it, but it was very clear.”
Earlier in the week, a US official denied claims that the settlement plan announcement had been coordinated with the US.
According to Housing Ministry spokesman Arik Ben Shimon, 801 units were approved for West Bank settlements in the latest building plans, including 227 in Efrat, 169 in Elkana and 40 in Ariel.
In addition, Karnei Shomron would see an additional 86 units, Alfei Menashe 78, Adam 75, Beitar Illit 24, and Emanuel 102.
The Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, over the Green Line, would receive another 600 units.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.