U.K., France, Egypt Denounce Israeli Appropriation of West Bank Land

On Sunday, Israel announced the appropriation of land in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group said was the biggest such claim in 30 years.

An Israeli settlement in the Etzion bloc, in the West Bank, April 2014.Eyal Toueg

REUTERS – The British government said on Monday it deplored an Israeli decision to appropriate a large swath of land inside the West Bank, saying the move would seriously damage Israel's international reputation.

The United States deemed the move "counterproductive" and the Egyptian foreign ministry called it "not a positive step – it contradicts international law and will have negative consequences on the peace process."

France also condemned the decision and called on Israel to reverse the decision. "As the French President recalled at the Ambassadors’ Conference, the parties must mobilize as a matter of urgency to return to the path of peace as soon as possible," the statement said.

On Sunday, Israel announced the appropriation of land in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group said was the biggest such claim in 30 years.

"The U.K. deplores the Israeli government's expropriation of 988 acres (1.54 square miles) of land around the settlement of Etzion," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, in a statement which echoed U.S. calls to reverse the decision.

"This is a particularly ill-judged decision that comes at a time when the priority must be to build on the cease-fire in Gaza. It will do serious damage to Israel's standing in the international community," Hammond said.

Some 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East war.