Europe Threatens to Withdraw Support for Israel Over Settlement Building Plans

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Europe has been putting heavy diplomatic pressure on Israel to reverse its decision to proceed with development plans for a new neighborhood in the area between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, known as the E1 corridor. Since Friday, five senior European ambassadors have communicated strong words of protest to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, all bearing the same main message: the European Union’s demand that Israel reverse its decision.

British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould and French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot called Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Rafi Barak and other senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday, a senior European diplomat said a short while after Israel announced it was going to accelerate the construction plans on the E1 corridor as a response to Palestinian push for UN recognition.

On Sunday morning, the Netherlands’ Ambassador to Israel, Caspar Veldkamp, European Union Ambassador Andrew Standley, and the German deputy ambassador all called the Prime Minister's office.

The British, French, and Dutch letters of protest were very strongly worded. Both the French and British ambassadors stressed their call to Israel to go back on its plans to erect 3,000 housing units and not proceed any further with any plans for the E1 corridor. “London is furious with the decision over the E1 corridor,” a British diplomat told Haaretz.

The Dutch ambassador, whose country abstained from last week’s vote by the United Nations’ General Assembly to give Palestine observer status, warned that if Israel moves forward with its construction plans in the E1 corridor, his country will be unable to help Israel and to support its policies in future votes at the UN and other international organizations. The deputy German ambassador had a similar message. A German diplomat said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to hear serious objections to the plan from Chancellor Angela Merkel when he visits Berlin on Thursday.

EU Ambassador Standley asked officials at the Prime Minister’s Office for clarifications concerning the decision, adding that the move contradicts the statements made by Israel before the UN vote. Moreover, it ignores the explicit requests of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton to refrain from making any moves that would further escalate the situation.

Despite the protests from Europe, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Israel is planning to take more steps against the Palestinian Authority. “The Palestinians will soon come to understand that they made a mistake when they took unilateral action and breached their treaties with Israel,” the source at the PMO said.

Goats grazing by Maale Adumim near Jerusalem, December 1, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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