Britain and France on Saturday condemned Israel’s announcement that it would authorize the construction of 3,000 housing units in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and called on Israeli leaders to reverse the decision.
The move, announced Friday, was made in apparent retaliation for a unilateral Palestinian bid for upgraded status at the United Nations General Assembly. The resolution submitted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was overwhelmingly approved by member nations on Thursday.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “extremely concerned” about the Israeli construction plans in what he termed “illegal” settlements.
“Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties,” according to the foreign secretary. Echoing comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, he said proceeding with the plans would make the two-state solution difficult to achieve.
“[The plans] would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians,” Hague added.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Saturday also called on Israel not to approve the expansion of settlements by 3,000 new homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“I call on Israeli authorities to refrain from any decision to that effect and to clearly show their willingness to restart (peace) negotiations,” he said.
Ahead of Thursday’s UN vote, the UK joined other European nations and the US in advising Abbas to refrain from submitting the resolution, which petitioned the General Assembly for non-member observer state status. However, Hague had also made clear to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman that the UK would not support a strong Israeli reaction to the move. Britain abstained in the vote.