Nearly two dozen European diplomats have urged the EU
to intensify efforts to block Israeli settlements in and near Jerusalem,
saying that "such construction on occupied lands is the single biggest threat" to a Mideast
peace deal, according to an internal report Wednesday.
The report called for strict application of an EU-Israel trade
pact to ensure products from settlements do not receive preferential treatment under the accord in European markets.
While the recommendations are non-binding, the report, endorsed by 22 heads of mission posted in east Jerusalem and the West Bank,
reflects Israel's growing international isolation
over the settlement issue.
"Settlement construction remains the single biggest threat to the two-state solution,"
the report said, portraying the policy as "systematic, deliberate and provocative."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said he had not seen the EU report, only what was published in the media.
Contested E1 area (Photo: Reuters)
"The mission of a diplomat is to build bridges, not to foster confrontations," he said. "The EU consuls have therefore failed miserably in their mission."
The issue of settlements must be addressed in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Palmor said.
The Palestinians have said they will not resume negotiations unless Israel freezes settlement construction on lands they claim for their state, including the Gaza Strip,
where Israel no longer has settlements.
Palestinians have negotiated in the past while settlement expansion continued, but said they are no longer willing to engage in open-ended negotiations they suspect largely serve Israel as a diplomatic cover for tightening its grip on occupied lands through settlements.