Sun, Dec 02, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Britain, US urge Israel to rethink settler home move

AFP, LONDON and WASHINGTON

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers questions from the audience at the 2012 Saban Forum on U.S.-Israel relations gala dinner in Washington on Friday.

Britain yesterday urged Israel to reverse its decision to build 3,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, saying the plans would undermine peace efforts.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “extremely concerned” by the move, which came in response to a historic UN vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state.

“The UK strongly advises the Israeli government to reverse this decision,” Hague said in a statement. “The window for a two-state solution is closing, and we need urgent efforts by the parties and by the international community to achieve a return to negotiations, not actions which will make that harder.”

“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,” he added.

Britain abstained from Thursday’s UN General Assembly vote, saying that it wanted the Palestinians to unconditionally agree to negotiations on a lasting two-state deal with Israel.

However, the British statement yesterday said that Hague had also advised Israel to “avoid reacting in a way that undermined these goals” for a swift return to peace talks.

The US on Friday also criticized Israel’s decision to build the settler homes, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling it a setback for peace.

The White House earlier called the move “counterproductive.”

“In light of today’s [Friday’s] announcement, let me reiterate that this administration — like previous administrations — has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” Clinton said.

She was speaking at a forum in Washington hosted by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

“The most lasting solution to the stalemate in Gaza would be a comprehensive peace between Israel and all Palestinians, led by their legitimate representative, the Palestinian Authority,” Clinton said.

“This week’s vote should give all of us pause. All sides need to consider carefully the path ahead,” Clinton added. “We all need to work together to find a path forward in negotiations that can deliver on the goal of a two-state solution. That remains our goal.”

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