JERUSALEM, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed to Germany Wednesday morning, where he is scheduled to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, amid the international crisis revolving the planned expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Following the diplomatic defeat to the Palestinian Authority on Thursday, which got its status upgraded to that of a non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly, the Israeli cabinet announced Friday that it would build thousands of housing units in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the E1 territory connecting them.
The move met with denouncements across the world, including harsh criticism from the United States and the UN, while Israeli ambassadors to Britain, France, Sweden, Brazil and Australia were reprimanded for the actions.
The planned construction in the E1 area had specifically upset the international community, as this controversial area connects the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim with Jerusalem and will block the formation of a future Palestinian state with a territorial continuity.
Israeli officials said that dialogue with the international community is ongoing after growing diplomatic criticism over the recently announced plans to construct beyond the Green Line.
“There is no such thing, as a crisis, it is simply an issue of disagreement with some world nations,” Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson told Xinhua. “But we have an ongoing dialogue, the countries we are talking about are friends with Israel … it’s not as if we are not listening to their complaints. ”
But many in Israel believe that the country is growing more isolated in the diplomatic arena, especially after Israel’s failure to prevent the PNA’s recent status upgrade at the UN, where 138 countries out of 193 voted favorably.
“We announced our position and it will take a while to implement it, it’s not going to happen overnight. We understand the disagreement in the international community but we are implementing our policies,” Hirschson said. “But what I would like to see is the international community taking steps to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table.”
On Tuesday, diplomatic sources told the Jerusalem Post that the prime minister is set to push a message that if Europe wants to prevent Israel from reacting to the Palestinians’ bid, they should “encourage a positive Palestinian dynamic” and keep the authority from making “further provocative actions.”
On the other hand, the Ha’aretz daily reported Wednesday that Germany’s Merkel will give Netanyahu an ultimatum to choose between promoting the peace process or facing an international seclusion.
Germany had abstained during the UN vote of the Palestinian Authority’s bid and had sharply criticized the Israeli decision to expand the settlements beyond the 1967 lines, which were annexed at the Mideast War of that year.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with the chancellor Wednesday evening for dinner and for another meeting on Thursday. Both meetings are expected to be tense. In the past, the two have had their share of differences over Israel’s settlements construction.
Before arriving in Germany, Netanyahu will visit the Czech Republic and thank its officials for standing by Israel, as being one of the nine states that objected to the Palestinians’ bid.
“The history of Israel and the Czech Republic has taught us that there is a need to adhere to truth even when the majority isn ‘t with you,” Netanyahu said on the eve of his trip.