“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.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that the settlement activities “set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” but nothing harsher has emerged from Washington, the only world power to side with the Israelis against the Palestinians’ statehood measure.
Germany, which abstained in the U.N. vote, expressed concern Monday over the Israeli move but wouldn’t say whether it had taken any direct measures in response. Netanyahu is due in Berlin on Wednesday for a previously scheduled meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman, said Germany took a “very negative view” of the settlement announcement, which he said undermined peace efforts.
The Palestinians view continued settlement expansion as a show of bad faith and refuse to return to talks unless construction is frozen. Netanyahu notes a 10-month settlement slowdown in 2010 failed to jump-start negotiations, and rejects calls for a new construction freeze.
The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel still occupies those first two territories and restricts access to Gaza, though it withdrew all settlers and soldiers in 2005.
Israel retaliated by announcing the next day that it would start drawing up plans to build 3,000 settlement homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. More explosively, from the Palestinian point of view, it said it would begin planning work for a chunk of land east of Jerusalem known as E1.
Building there would sever the link between the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim for a future capital. It would also cut off the northern part of the West Bank from its southern flank.
On Wednesday, Israel’s planning and construction committee for the area is scheduled to hold a first-ever meeting to discuss developing the E1 area, a defense official said.
The session, described by the official as a “very, very preliminary” step, would be open to Jewish politicians in the West Bank and developers, as well as Palestinians with any claims to parts of the land. This would be the first step in a planning process that could take months, if not years, before ground is actually broken.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the project with reporters.
• Hinnant reported from Paris. Jill Lawless in London, Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, David Rising in Berlin, Ciaran Giles in Madrid and Dalia Nammari in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed.