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Monday, December 03, 2012

Britain and France to recall ambassadors over 'settlement construction'?

Haaretz reports that Britain and France are considering recalling their ambassadors in the next few days over Israel's plans to build Jewish housing in 'east' Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (Hat Tip: Shy Guy).
Britain and France are poised to take action − possibly including the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassadors, according to senior European diplomats − in protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to move settlement construction ahead in the area known as E1, between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.
“This time it won’t just be a condemnation, there will be real action taken against Israel,” a senior European diplomat said.
Netanyahu’s decision Friday to move ahead on planning in E1 and to build 3,000 housing units in the settlement blocs and in East Jerusalem, has apparently shocked the foreign ministries and the leaders in London and Paris. Not only do Britain and France view construction in E1 as a “red line,” they are reportedly angry because they view Israel as having responded ungratefully to the support the two countries gave it during the recent Gaza operation.
The Americans can take credit for supporting us during Operation Pillar of Defense. Britain and France? Funny - I don't recall hearing a whole lot about them....
“London is furious about the E1 decision,” a European diplomat told Haaretz. 
You know what? If they had voted against the 'Palestinians' it just might not have happened. As I noted yesterday, much of the fury of the reaction here is over the fact that all of the Europeans except for the Czech Republic either abstained or voted with the 'Palestinians.' Actions have consequences.
According to three senior diplomats from various EU countries, Britain and France were coordinating their moves against Israel, which they will reportedly implement over the next few days, and have discussed the extraordinary step of recalling their ambassadors from Tel Aviv for consultations. This step has never been taken before by these countries toward Israel. It would be so extreme that Britain and France may not take such action at this point but, rather, could invoke it in the case of further escalation of Israeli actions against the Palestinians. A final decision in the matter will be made today by the British and the French foreign ministers.
A source in the Prime Minister’s Bureau said Israel was planning more steps against the Palestinian Authority. “The Palestinians will soon realize they made a mistake in taking unilateral steps that breached agreements with Israel,” the source said.
Is anyone really surprised at that? I would bet on the security coordination - such as it exists - being suspended soon as well. From our standpoint, what happened on Thursday was a declaration of war against us.
Britain and France are said to have informed Washington of their reported moves against Israel, as well as other European countries, including Germany.
Among the more moderate steps under consideration are suspending strategic dialogue meetings between the two countries and Israel, making a decision in each country to label consumer products that originate in the territories, and even promoting sanctions against the settlements in EU institutions.
The labeling and sanctions were likely to happen anyway.
At this point, Germany is not expected to join a move to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv, but it might join more moderate steps. Netanyahu will be in Berlin Thursday for a periodic bilateral summit. According to a German diplomat, Netanyahu is expected to hear sharp opposition from Chancellor Angela Merkel over punitive steps against the Palestinians by Israel, especially construction in E1.
The EU is putting heavy pressure on Israel to retract its decision to move ahead on construction in E1. Five senior European ambassadors have lodged very sharply worded protests with the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem since Friday evening.
The five are Britain, France, Holland, Germany and the European Union. Germany sent a deputy ambassador; all the others sent their ambassadors. I don't know whether anything can be read into that.

Prime Minister Netanyahu clarified on Sunday that the cabinet decision authorized planning - and not building - in E-1. But that seems lost on the Europeans.

Here's what the Europeans don't understand. This country is at least somewhat a democracy. My guess is that you're going to see a lot of polls on Friday in which a majority will say that Netanyahu reacted properly to last Thursday's decision, and a significant minority will say that he did not react strongly enough. Israelis - not the political class but the public - have had it with the 'Palestinians.' That's why you see a Likud primary that pulls sharply to the Right, that's why you see Jewish Home led by Naftali Bennett polling 11-13 seats and that's why you see (you don't but I do - I saw it in a paper that's not online) that Shas is having difficulty choosing candidates between the (dovish) Deri faction and the (hawkish) Yishai faction.

Quite simply, our patience has run out.

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