(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Ireland, Finland and Egypt on Tuesday became the latest countries to summon Israel's ambassadors to their states for discussions on Israeli settlement expansion plans.
Earlier in the day, Brazil and Australia joined Spain, France, Britain, Sweden and Denmark in calling in Israeli ambassadors over the announcement, which lay out plans for 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and steps up planning in the controversial E1 corridor.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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"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.
Netanyahu pushed back on Monday against intense international pressure to reconsider the plans for, 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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