European nations in the 15-member United Nations Security Council are set to jointly condemn Israel over its plans for Jewish settler homes in east Jerusalem, a European diplomatic source said on Tuesday.
Israel approved plans for a further 1,500 homes on Monday after provoking international protests earlier this month against a project for another 3,000 such homes in a sensitive area known as E1.
"We are working on a declaration from the European Union member nations at the Security Council on this subject," the source said, adding that it would be issued in the coming days.
The four European members are France, Britain, Germany and Portugal.
Diplomatic officials said the statement of condemnation will be presented to council members, but the European countries are not seeking to have it approved as an official statement by the council or as a resolution, most likely because of near-certain opposition by the United States, Israel\’s closest ally.
The statement by key European countries on the UN\’s most powerful body would be a symbolic, but nonetheless high-profile show of displeasure with the Israelis.
"We shouldn\’t just focus on the E1 settlements, but on all of them because if each one of these sees the light of day, they could call into question the creation of a two-state solution," one diplomat said.
France and Britain, both permanent members of the Security Council, summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their capitals earlier in December to hear appeals for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse course on the settlement program.
"Once the Israeli elections pass in January, we hope there will be more reasonable decisions taken (by the Israelis)," the source said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week it was imperative that France, Britain and the United States became more directly involved in peace negotiations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly spoken out against the settlements, but her government is wary of being too tough on Israel, whose safety she has declared to be a key German interest. Germany is considered one of Israel\’s staunchest political allies in the European Union, as skepticism about Israel\’s policies is growing across the 27-nation bloc.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been unshaken by the criticism, and on Tuesday vowed to continue building in east Jerusalem.
"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel and we will continue to build there. A united Jerusalem expresses a wide national agreement," he said in the northern Israeli town of Acre
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on the reported European initiative in the Security Council, since nothing formal has been proposed. But Palmor said the idea of taking action at the United Nations only lowered the chances of renewing peace talks, and insisted the only way to advance negotiations was "to weigh on the Palestinians and convince them to return to the negotiating table."
"Fiddling with UN resolutions will take us the opposite way," he added. "So it\’s their choice to make, a step forward or two steps backward."
Israeli officials have brushed off the international criticism as either unfair or by portraying it as a disagreement among friends. But officials say the increasingly frosty relations with Europe are a cause for concern.