The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 3, 2012

Israel rejects European pressure over settlements

(Continued)

After a flurry of angry phone calls from European capitals to Israel over the weekend, France called in the Israeli envoy to Paris late Monday morning.

France, the first major European country to announce support for the Palestinian statehood effort, also sent a letter to the Israeli government, calling the settlement decision "a considerable obstacle to the two-state solution."

Britain, which abstained in the U.N. vote, urged Israel to reverse the decision, summoning the Israeli envoy to the Foreign Office. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told parliament that "together with other EU countries we will discuss other potential steps," but he would not elaborate.

British officials said London was looking to Washington to take the lead, and that British diplomats were meeting with American counterparts on Monday.

None of the four European governments openly threatened concrete measures to punish Israel.

"Our ambassadors were called in, and the countries protested about the announcement about the intention to do further construction in settlements," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Monday with the consul general of France in the West Bank and asked France to press Israel to halt settlement activity, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath praised the Europeans for taking action.

"We've been expecting this kind of behavior for a long time," Shaath said. "For this to come from France and England is very beneficial to us. We highly appreciate it and we are hoping the U.S. will follow their lead."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that the settlement activities "set back the cause of a negotiated peace," but nothing harsher has emerged from Washington, the only world power to side with the Israelis against the Palestinians' statehood measure.

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