Has Israel's settlement expansion crossed a 'red line'? (+video)
Both Britain and France have summoned Israel's ambassadors to protest plans to expand construction in East Jerusalem, while some say more serious action like economic reprisals are possible.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement to expand the E1 settlements comes just a day after the UN voted overwhelmingly to recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a state, albeit one with "nonvoting observer status" in the UN. The move passed 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions. Britain and Germany, both longtime supporters of Israel, abstained from the vote, while France, Russia, and Sweden all supported the PA. The United States was among the few opposition votes.Skip to next paragraph
Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor. He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog. He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.
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Building in the E1 region is particularly sensitive, as it would potentially cut off the West Bank from Jerusalem, which a Palestinian state, sharing with Israel, would use as its capital. The BBC's Jonathan Marcus notes that Israel has told successive US administrations that it would not build in the E1 region, and that such policy change is provocative even to Washington.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman criticized Israel's E1 expansion as a violation of international law. Mr. Ban's office released a statement Sunday saying he viewed the Israeli move with "grave concern and disappointment."
Settlements are illegal under international law and, should the E-1 settlement be constructed, it would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution.
Catherine Ashton, the EU's head of foreign affairs, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also criticized the decision along similar lines, reports The Guardian. Ms. Ashton said the move "may represent a strategic step undermining the prospects of a contiguous and viable Palestine with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both it and Israel," while Mr. Fabius called it a "new area of colonization" that would "sap the necessary confidence in a resumption of talks."
IN PICTURES: East Jerusalem expansion