Foreign Secretary 'furious' with the Israelis' over settlement plans

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Hell hath no fury like the (British) Foreign Office scorned, it would seem.

Israel's left-leaning Haaretz newspaper leads this morning with the startling headline that Britain and France are considering withdrawing their ambassadors in response to Israel's promise to speed up settlement building on occupied land - itself punishment for the Palestinian victory at the UN last Thursday.

A hill in the E1 area overlooking the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem. Credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The British Foreign Secretary is said to be furious with the Israelis; especially since the UK led international efforts to defeat the Palestinian move.

This is not the thanks William Hague expected in return. The official statement barely does justice to the private anger.

The Foreign Secretary has consistently made it very clear that the UK would not support a strong reaction to Thursday’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that undermined the prospects for negotiations and efforts to build a strong foundation for the peace process.

The recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units threatens the two state solution and makes progress through negotiations harder to achieve.

We have called on the Israeli government to reconsider.

– Foreign Office statement

Here, the British Embassy will neither confirm not deny the Haaretz report.

But if Ambassador Matthew Gould were to be temporarily recalled to London it would be extraordinary and unprecedented.

Sources say no decision has yet been made. It might be that the Foreign Office settles for summoning the Israeli ambassador in London for a dressing down.

Foreign Secretary William Hague. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images

In most part the anger, and despair at the prospects of a negotiated peace, centres on Israel's threat to build on a five square mile area of dusty hillside known, in unprepossessing planning speak as E1.

What makes it important is that the land, between Jerusalem and the existing Jewish settlement at Ma'aleh Adumin, would in effect severe in two the West Bank.

It would make impossible the establishment of a joined up Palestinian state. A deal breaker for the two-state solution, or as Ban Ki Moon says, "an almost fatal blow".