As country after country summoned their Israeli ambassadors in protest of settlement building plans, British Foreign Secretary William Hague clarified Tuesday that European sanctions against Israel were not an option.
However, he told parliament that he was in talks with other European foreign ministers about formulating "incentives and disincentives" to support US efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to expand settlement building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank after the United Nations' de facto recognition of statehood statehood last week, and has brushed off international criticism of the move.
The land Israel plans to build on is seen as essential for a contiguous Palestinian state as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
"I don't think there is enthusiasm around the European Union ... about economic sanctions in Europe on Israel. I don't believe there would be anywhere near a consensus nor is that our approach. We continue to try to bring both sides back to negotiations," Hague said.
"Nevertheless, if there is no reversal of the decision that has been announced, we will want to consider what further steps European countries should take," he said.
France on Monday also dismissed the prospect of European sanctions on Israel.
Brazil and Australia on Tuesday became the latest countries to summon their envoys over the Israeli plans.
The moves followed similar actions in Europe including Spain, France, Britain, Sweden and Denmark.
"Australia has long opposed all settlement activity," Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in a statement after Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem's meeting with senior Australian officials. "Such activity threatens the viability of a two-state solution without which there will never be security in Israel."
Carr, whose country takes up a rotating UN Security Council seat next year, said Israel's actions had complicated the chances of fresh negotiations between the two sides.
"I am extremely disappointed with these reported Israeli decisions," he said.
Netanyahu pushed back on Monday against intense international pressure to reconsider plans for building 3,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and stepping up the planning of the controversial E1 site, saying no one should expect Israel to sit on its hands in light of Palestinian unilateral steps at the UN.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying Israel would “continue to stand up for its vital interests even in the face of international pressure.”
The official said there would be no change in the decision made Friday.
“The Palestinian unilateral moves at the UN are a blatant and fundamental violation of agreements to which the international community was a guarantor,” the official said. “No one should be surprised that Israel is not sitting with its arms folded in response to the unilateral Palestinian steps.”
The source added that Israel would take further steps if the Palestinians went ahead with more unilateral moves of their own.
The plans, however, triggered what one Israeli source described as the worst diplomatic crisis Israel has faced in the last 20 years.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing that the US urged Israel to “reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint, as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution. We reiterate our long-standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and east Jerusalem construction.”
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