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They were confident they had the support of mainstream America - Washington has long been Israel’s most steadfast ally - and dismissed EU complaints as largely irrelevant.
Internal Palestinian political divisions, coupled with regular bouts of violence, have also enabled Israel to argue that they do not have any genuine partners for peace.
Diplomats insist the mood abroad is hardening. They say that if the settlements get any bigger there will be no more room for a contiguous Palestinian state, dashing the chance of an accord. They also maintain that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the most moderate leader that the Israelis can hope for.
Noting this change of tone, the Institute for National Security Studies, a respected Israeli think-tank, said this week that for the first time, the country faced the possibility of “concrete punishment measures” tied to its settlement expansion.
STUCK WITH LABELLING
Israel’s solitude was seen most starkly in November when a mere eight countries, including the United States and four micro Pacific nations, voted with the Jewish state in a failed bid to prevent the Palestinians from gaining de-facto statehood recognition at the United Nations.
EU diplomats in Jerusalem forecast that such isolation would become a way of life for Israel, but dismissed any suggestion that Europe might impose economic sanctions on the Jewish state.
“The most we would expect is a move towards labelling of all settler products as coming from occupied territories,” said one diplomat, who declined to be named. “Sanctions are a no-no.”
Even a labelling change is likely to elicit fury in Israel. When South Africa proposed a similar move last May, the Israeli foreign ministry said the decision was “tainted” with racism.