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Israel feels heat from Europe over settlements

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Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012 9:23 am

PARIS (AP) -- Israel's decision to approve 3,000 new homes on occupied territory drew sharp condemnation from European allies on Monday, with at least three governments summoning ambassadors to express their disapproval of an action they say undermines an already troubled peace process.

The Israeli envoy to Paris was called to a meeting late Monday morning, according to a statement from the French foreign ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot. France, which was the first major European country to announce support for the Palestinian effort to win recognition at the U.N., also sent a letter to the Israeli government, calling the settlement decision "a considerable obstacle to the two-state solution."

Britain and Sweden also summoned the Israeli ambassadors, and Germany said the decision would hurt Israel's ability to negotiate a long-term peace agreement.

None of the European governments openly threatened any concrete measures to punish Israel.

The United Nations General Assembly last week overwhelmingly endorsed an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war. The vote amounted to an international condemnation of Israeli settlements in the areas claimed by the Palestinians.

The following day, Israel defiantly said it would start drawing up plans to build thousands of settlement homes, including the first-ever development on a crucial corridor east of Jerusalem that would allow a contiguous Palestinian state.

Britain, which abstained in the U.N. vote, called on Israel to reverse the decision as it summoned Israel's ambassador Daniel Taub to the Foreign Office.

A French official denied a report in the Haaretz newspaper that London and Paris were considering recalling their ambassadors for consultation in a symbolic but potent expression of dissent.

Germany, which also abstained, expressed its concern on Monday but declined to say whether it had taken any direct measures in response. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Berlin on Wednesday for talks scheduled well ahead of the U.N. vote and a dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Steffen Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, said Germany took a "very negative view" of the settlement announcement, which he said undermined Israel's negotiations for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

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Associated Press writers Amy Teibel in Jerusalem; Jill Lawless in London, Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Sweden; and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

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