UK and France pile censure on Israel’s new settlement plan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Britain and France condemned yesterday a plan by Israel to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying international confidence in its desire to make peace with the Palestinians was at risk.

Stung by a UN vote according de facto recognition to a Palestinian state, Israel on Friday said it would build thousands of new settler homes, including in a wedge zone between Jerusalem and the West Bank, known as E1, which Washington considers especially sensitive.

The United States, one of just eight countries to vote alongside Israel against the Palestinians at the UN General Assembly, said the latest expansion plan was counterproductive to any resumption of direct peace talks stalled for two years. France, which voted with the Palestinians, and Britain, which abstained, had tougher censure for Israel, which wants to keep all of Jerusalem and swathes of West Bank settlements under any future peace accord. Most powers view the settlements as illegal for taking in land captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

“If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

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