Australia summons Israeli ambassador over settlement construction

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Israel’s ambassador to Australia received a diplomatic dressing down from government officials after being summoned over Jerusalem’s decision to expand settlement construction.

Yuval Rotem was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Tuesday to be 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 in an area known as E1, between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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

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

Carr said Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv has also expressed to the Israeli foreign ministry the “grave concern” held in Canberra.

But 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 false.

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

The move comes just days after Australia – ordinarily a supporter of Israel at the United Nations – abstained from the vote on upgrading the status of Palestine after Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who had intended to vote with Israel, was rolled by her Labor Party colleagues.

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