The United Kingdom and France both summoned their Israeli ambassadors on Monday, as European governments took coordinated action against the Jewish state.
The move by diplomats was designed to increase pressure on Israel over their decision on Friday to build 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The move by Israel is widely considered to be in retaliation to Palestine’s successful bid at the United Nations. Israel has also announced that it will withhold tax receipts totalling $120 million from the Palestinians.
Following the Israeli annoucement, the UN said on Sunday that construction of the homes could be a fatal blow for the peace agreement.
The UK also condemned the settlement build, publishing an official statement on their Foreign Office website on Monday: “We deplore the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block. This threatens the viability of the two state solution."
French diplomats have sent a letter to Israeli authorities and called on the Israeli envoy to explain the decision.
The diplomatic action by France and the UK is considered highly unusual. The UK in particular, does not tend to criticise Israel, deciding to abstain during the vote at the UN last week.
Germany said that the ‘E1’ plan would seriously undermine its continued ability to negotiate for peace in the region, while Sweden followed France and the UK by summoning their ambassador from Israel.
Three European diplomats, speaking to Israeli newspaper, Haaretsz, said their governments co-ordinated their efforts today, to ensure maximum success in the diplomatic tussle.
Writing on his personal blog, Swedish foreign affairs minister, Carl Bildt, said, "The Israeli government's plan is pure vengeance against the Palestinians following the UN vote.Israel's decisions to halt tax payment transfers and to extend illegal settlements around Jerusalem might dramatically escalate the situation".
The plans to build the homes in the “E 1” area, between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, seven kilometres to the east, are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who fear that the construction would make travel between the northern and southern West Bank almost impossible.