Palestinians condemn Israeli settlement plans

gaza gaza strip west bank israel map generic AP

Updated 4:15 a.m. ET

UNITED NATIONSPalestinians are condemning Israel for announcing plans for new settlement construction immediately after the U.N. upgraded the status of a state of Palestine, and are demanding urgent international action to stop what they called "this latest Israeli provocation."

They are also threatening to bring war crimes charges against the Jewish state.

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said in letters sent late Monday to the U.N. secretary-general, Security Council and General Assembly that, at the same time that Palestinian leaders reaffirmed their readiness to resume peace negotiations, "Israel continues to flagrantly pursue its illegal policies and practices."

He appealed to the international community, including the U.N. Security Council, to act urgently to salvage the internationally-backed goal of two states living side-by-side in peace, which was reaffirmed in last Thursday's General Assembly resolution raising the Palestinians' U.N. status to a nonmember observer state.

A senior Palestinian official warned Monday that the West Bank government would pursue war crime charges against Israel if it doesn't stop settlement construction.

Nabil Shaath said late Monday that "many countries" have urged the Palestinian Authority not to use its new status to seek war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court, a U.N. body.

Shaath says, "By continuing these war crimes of settlement activities" on occupied territories, Israel is "pushing and forcing us to go to the ICC."

Earlier Monday, Israel's decision to approve 3,000 new homes on occupied territory drew sharp condemnation from European allies, with at least three governments summoning ambassadors to express their disapproval of an action they say undermines an already-troubled peace process.

The Israeli envoy to Paris was called to a meeting late Monday morning, according to a statement from the French foreign ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot. France, which was the first major European country to announce support for the Palestinian effort to win recognition at the U.N., also sent a letter to the Israeli government, calling the settlement decision "a considerable obstacle to the two-state solution, by compromising the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state."

Britain and Sweden also summoned the Israeli ambassadors, and Germany said the decision would hurt Israel's ability to negotiate a long-term peace agreement.

None of the European governments openly threatened any concrete measures to punish Israel.

Britain denied a report in the Haaretz newspaper that London and Paris were considering recalling their ambassadors for consultation in a symbolic but potent expression of dissent.

British foreign officials told CBS News Monday that "the contents of this article are pure speculation."

France's foreign ministry also denied that it was considering recalling its ambassadors, saying, "We have other ways to show our disapproval."

Nevertheless senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath praised the Europeans for taking action.

"We've been expecting this kind of behavior for a long time," Shaath said. "For this to come from France and England is very beneficial to us. We highly appreciate it and we are hoping the U.S. will follow their lead."

The United Nations General Assembly last week overwhelmingly endorsed an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war. The vote amounted to an international condemnation of Israeli settlements in the areas claimed by the Palestinians.

The following day, Israel defiantly said it would start drawing up plans to build thousands of settlement homes, including the first-ever development on a crucial corridor east of Jerusalem that would allow a contiguous Palestinian state.

Britain, which abstained in the U.N. vote, called on Israel to reverse the decision as it summoned Israel's ambassador Daniel Taub to the Foreign Office.

On Saturday Foreign Secretary William Hague called Israeli settlements illegal under international law, and said the approved new building "would undermine Israel's international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians.

"The U.K. strongly advises the Israeli government to reverse this decision," Hague said.

Germany, which also abstained, expressed its concern on Monday but declined to say whether it had taken any direct measures in response. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Berlin on Wednesday for talks scheduled well ahead of the U.N. vote and a dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Steffen Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, said Germany took a "very negative view" of the settlement announcement, which he said undermined Israel's negotiations for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

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