The three European powers warned that the move could jeopardize efforts to restart the Mideast peace process.
- Israel forges on with 1,213 new east J'lem homes
"Our clear expectation of all sides in the Middle East is that they refrain from anything that will make the resumption of negotiations more difficult," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement, calling Israel's settlement policy "a hindrance to the peace process."
A senior British diplomat said Israel's move was "provocative" and "deeply disappointing."
"The UK has been consistently clear that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and by altering the situation on the ground are making the two state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly hard to realize," British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said.
France joined the criticism, saying the announcement came "in what is an already tense situation."
"It erodes the building of trust between the sides and constitutes an obstacle to a just peace, based on a two-state solution," the Foreign Ministry in Paris said.
Last week, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris, French President Francois Hollande highlighted the importance of Israel stopping settlement building.
Israel's government announcement Tuesday is seen as a signal to the Palestinians that they should consider the possible consequences of asking the UN General Assembly later this month to upgrade their status to non-member observer state.
The 193-member General Assembly is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and the petition for a status upgrade is assured. Last year, the Palestinians failed to receive the necessary approval from the UN Security Council for their bid to become a full member state.
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