Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Israeli West Bank Housing Bid Prompts Backlash in Europe Plan Would Isolate Palestinians Living in East Jerusalem

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Israeli West Bank Housing Bid Prompts Backlash in Europe Plan Would Isolate Palestinians Living in East Jerusalem

Article excerpt

JERUSALEM -- Israel is facing an onslaught of criticism from European allies over its decision to revive a controversial West Bank settlement project known as E-1, which critics say could destroy efforts to create a Palestintian state.

The governments of Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark called their Israeli ambassadors in for meetings Monday to formally complain about the project, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States, which has opposed the project for nearly 20 years, is urging "Israeli leaders to reconsider these actions."

Most of the world's countries view Israel's settlement construction on land it seized during the 1967 Middle East War as a violation of international law, and the United States and European governments have frequently issued public condemnations over new Jewish settlements in the past.

But the E-1 project is generating the harshest international response Israel has witnessed in years. The settlement is seen as particularly sensitive because it would virtually cut off access between the West Bank and Arab-dominated neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope to make the capital of their state.

During a news conference Monday, French President Francois Hollande called upon Israel to cancel plans to resume preliminary planning for E-1, warning that a failure to do so could trigger punitive steps.

Asked if France would consider sanctions, Mr. Hollande told reporters: "We don't want to shift into sanctions mode. We are more focused on persuading. It's an important moment, but I appeal for responsibility."

Britain's Foreign Office said: "We deplore the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E-1 block. This threatens the viability of the two-state solution. …

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