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Five EU states protest against Israeli plan to seize land in Bethlehem

The ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain, and the deputy ambassador of Germany met on Monday with the Israel National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen at the prime minister's office and submitted a joint protest against the expropriation of 4,000 dunams in the Bethlehem area and its declaration as "state land".

European diplomats said the ambassadors explained to Cohen that Israel's controversial decision had greatly angered the European Union members. One of the diplomats were quoted saying: "We delivered a clear message stating that this was a poor decision that came at a very bad time, and we hope that it will be reversed."

Cohen said that there is strong political pressure within the government to increase settlement building in the occupied West Bank and that there are parties in the coalition that are pushing towards taking measures beyond expropriation of land.

One of the diplomats, who had been briefed on the details of the meeting, said that Cohen noted that the decision of expropriation was not final, claiming that there are 30 days for the Palestinians who believe that the decision would affect them or their property to submit protests and reservations in this regard. He also added that the impression Cohen left with the ambassadors is that the Israeli government does not intend to accept the European and American demand to reverse the decision.

Last Sunday, the Israeli Ministry of Security's so-called "civil administration" announced the expropriation of 4,000 dunams of land from five villages in the Bethlehem area in response to the kidnapping and murder of three settlers in June 2014. They also aim to create a geographical contiguity between the Green Line and the Beitar Illit, Kfar Etzion and Geva'ot settlements.

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