US and EU officials are in "close contact" regarding how best and most effectively to react to Israel's approval of thousands of new east Jerusalem apartments, European diplomatic officials said Tuesday.
The comments came amid reports that the four EU countries on the UN Security Council – France, Britain, Portugal and Germany – were preparing a statement in the Security Council condemning the settlement construction. The coordination with the US stems from a desire to avoid a US veto of any Security Council resolution on the matter.
In February 2011 the US vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning all settlements, as well as construction in east Jerusalem, as illegal. The US said that while it believed the settlements illegitimate, the resolution would hinder chances to resume peace talks.
The European diplomatic officials said that part of the discussions between the EU and American officials had to do with trying to sort out what – if anything – was new in the spate of approvals, and what were "recycled decisions" that were announced now for electoral purposes.
The official said it was likely that any EU reaction would be in line with a statement issued by EU foreign ministers last week that said the EU was "deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, and in particular plans to develop the E1 area."
"In the light of its core objective of achieving the two-state solution," the statement continued, "the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly. The European Union reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace."
Israeli diplomatic officials said they did not know what language the Europeans were discussing, but did not think it would include a call for sanctions against Israel for continued settlement activity.
On Monday, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington's opposition to settlements "has been consistent across at least three administrations. The issue of where borders are ultimately going to be has to be settled by negotiation, though."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday stressed he would continue construction in Jerusalem and called on all Zionist parties to support building in the capital. "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and the source of Zionism is in Zion," he said. "I cannot understand how a Zionist party can object to building in Jerusalem." His comments came during a visit to the Acre hesder yeshiva.