Hebrew media sources have confirmed that Britain and France are looking into the possibility of withdrawing their ambassadors to Israel, among other steps, in protest against its decision to build 3,000 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
According to Haaretz newspaper, Britain and France are concerned about the ongoing construction and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Both consider the latest announcement to be “a slap in their faces and a crossing of the red lines”, not least because of the support given to Israel by Paris and London during the former’s recent offensive against the Gaza Strip.
According to high-ranking European diplomats, “London and Paris began joint discussions last Friday and have decided to work together in taking practical steps against Israel in the coming days.” Haaretz confirmed that the two governments have notified the US and the EU of the steps they intend to take, and that they “will not settle for condemnatory statements against the process of settlement construction”. Instead, it is claimed, they will work on unprecedented practical steps against Israel, including the withdrawal of their ambassadors from Tel Aviv.
One European diplomat suggested that the protests would include distinguishing Jewish settlement-produced goods from Israeli produce in British and French markets by labelling them distinctively. Goods produced on illegal settlements are themselves considered to be illegal. Escalating trade, culture and academic boycott campaigns would also impose additional sanctions on settlers.
The Israeli government decided to ratify a plan to build 3,000 new settlement units in the area between the huge Maale Adumim settlement bloc in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. It would cut the West Bank in half and isolate Jerusalem from its Palestinian hinterland. The Israelis’ fit of pique follows the UN decision to grant Palestine the status of a non-member state.