Australia summons Israeli envoy over settlement construction

SYDNEY (JTA) — Israel’s ambassador to Australia was dressed down by government officials after being summoned over Jerusalem’s decision to expand settlement construction.

Yuval Rotem at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Tuesday was apprised of the federal government’s "grave concern" over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to prepare for the construction of 3,000 new homes between Jerusalem and the West Bank — an area known as E1.

Britain, France and other European countries on Monday called in their Israeli ambassadors to register their disapproval.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he had not considered recalling Andrea Faulkner, Australia’s ambassador in Israel. On Monday, rumors that Britain and France would recall their ambassadors in Israel were proven to be untrue.

“We’ll stay in contact with like-minded countries like Britain and France to calibrate our response with theirs,” Carr said.

Carr said Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv also has expressed to the Israeli Foreign Ministry the "grave concern" held in Canberra over the construction.

“That is deeply, deeply serious because it interferes with the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state," he told ABC radio on Tuesday. "Without a Palestinian state, there can’t be peace in this region.”

The move comes just days after Australia abstained from the vote in the U.N. General Assembly on upgrading the status of Palestine after Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who had intended to vote with Israel, was swayed by her Labor Party colleagues. Australia ordinarily supports Israel’s positions at the United Nations.

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