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Israel summons European envoys over protest

January 17, 2014

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s foreign minister summoned a group of European ambassadors Friday to protest against what Israel has described as their countries’ one-sided approach to the Mideast conflict.

Avigdor Lieberman called in the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain a day after these same countries summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their countries to protest a recent Israeli announcement of new settlement tenders in east Jerusalem and the West Bank — territories Palestinians want for their future state.

Israelis and Palestinians resumed peace talks in July after years of stalemate and the Israeli government has come under heavy criticism for continuing its construction plans throughout the talks. More than 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

While the Palestinians dropped a longstanding demand that Israel halt all settlement construction when peace talks resumed, they say they received assurances that Israel would show restraint. Since then, Israel has approved plans, most recently last week, to build thousands of new settler homes. The Palestinians, and the international community, view the settlements as illegal or illegitimate. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said the construction raises questions about Israel’s commitment to peace.

Israel rejects the theory that settlements pose an obstacle to peace and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the critics as hypocrites and called their claims “bogus.”

The European Union has been particularly outspoken, and Netanyahu took aim at them in his remarks late Thursday before foreign journalists in Jerusalem.

“When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about the incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction?” he said. “I think it is time to stop this hypocrisy. I think it is time to inject some balance and fairness to this discussion. Because I think this imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn’t advance peace.’”

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