Israel harshly rejects European criticism of settlements

After Britain, France, Germany and Portugal say settlement construction, settler violence damaging prospects for negotiations, Foreign Ministry responds that countries "losing credibility, making themselves irrelevant."

Shiloh settlement in West Bank 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shiloh settlement in West Bank 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Israel on Wednesday harshly rejected criticism of its settlement activities and settler violence toward Palestinians levied against it by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal a day earlier.
Members of the UN Security Council voiced deep concerns on Tuesday about the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and criticized Israel for pressing ahead with the construction of new settlements.
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Council members were reacting to a briefing by UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, who told them the search for peace "remained elusive in a context of tensions on the ground, deep mistrust between the parties and volatile regional dynamics."
Representatives of Britain, France, Germany and Portugal said Fernandez-Taranco's briefing made clear to the 15-nation council that Israeli settlement activity was undermining attempts to restart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
"One of the themes that emerged was the severely damaging effect that increased settlement construction and settler violence is having on the ground and on the prospects of a return to negotiations," the four European Union council members said in a joint statement.
"Israel's continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including east Jerusalem, send a devastating message," said the statement, which was read to reporters by British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
The Europeans called for an immediate halt to settlement activity, adding that they hoped the government would follow through on its promises to bring settlers guilty of violence to justice.
"If instead of contributing to the stability of the Middle East, they invest efforts in inappropriately bickering with a country with a law and justice system that knows how to deal with lawbreakers, then they are losing their credibility and making themselves irrelevant," the Foreign Ministry stated in response to the European criticism.
The statement added that the UN Security Council would be better served to concentrate on violence in Syria and Iran's nuclear program.
Reuters contributed to this report.