Tel Aviv — Britain and France on Monday weighed measures against Israel to protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to expand settlement building after the United Nations’ de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood.
Germany urged Israel to refrain from expanding settlements and Russia said it viewed plans to put more new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem with serious concern.
Diplomatic sources said both London and Paris were considering the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassadors to Tel Aviv, but both countries signalled there was still room for manoeuvre to avoid a deep crisis with Israel.
“There are other ways in which we can express our disapproval,” a French Foreign Ministry official told Reuters in Paris after diplomatic sources said France and Britain were mulling whether to order their envoys home from Tel Aviv.
The French government called in the Israeli ambassador to Paris to express disapproval over Israel’s settlement plans.
Britain said it summoned Israel’s ambassador in London to the Foreign Office to hear its concerns over settlement building.
“Any decision about any other measures the UK might take will depend on the outcome of our discussions with the Israeli government and with international partners including the U.S. and European Union,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Angered by the U.N. General Assembly’s upgrading on Thursday of the Palestinians status in the world body from “observer entity” to “non-member state”, Israel said the next day it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Such settlement projects in the past, on land Israel captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek for a future state, have routinely drawn almost pro forma world condemnation.
But in a dramatic shift that Netanyahu would have certainly realised would raise the alarm among Palestinians and in world capitals, his pro-settler government also ordered “preliminary zoning and planning work” for thousands of housing units in areas including the so-called “E1” zone east of Jerusalem.