JERUSALEM -- The foreign minister of Israel summoned the ambassadors of four European nations Friday to complain about what Israel sees as their countries’ pro-Palestinian bias.
The rebuke by Avigdor Lieberman came the day after those same European governments -- Britain, Italy, France and Spain -- called in the Israeli ambassadors to their countries to protest Israel’s plans to build new settlements in territories that the Palestinians want for a future state.
“Beyond being biased, unbalanced and ignoring the reality on the ground, the positions held by these states significantly harm the possibility of reaching some sort of agreement between the sides,” Lieberman said in a statement released by his office Friday.
The diplomatic tit-for-tat was set off by Israel’s announcement last week of plans to build 1,400 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The plan, which was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was announced shortly after Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners, the third of four groups of inmates it promised to free as part of ongoing peace negotiations.
European officials, along with others in the international community, have warned that the expansion of Israeli settlements could derail the negotiations, which resumed in July after years of stalemate.
Speaking to an audience of foreign journalists on Thursday, Netanyahu also accused European officials of “imbalance” in the way they treat Israelis and Palestinians.
“I think it pushes peace further away, because it tells the Palestinians, ‘You can basically do whatever you want, say anything you want, incite any way you want, and you won’t be held accountable,’” Netanyahu said.
“When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction?” Netanyahu asked.
Palestinian officials have said that expansion of Israeli settlements on land they want for a state could destroy the peace talks. Netanyahu has defended the planned expansion, saying the new construction would occur in areas that would remain Israeli under a future peace accord.