Israel protests EU criticism of Jewish settlements
Israel protested on Tuesday against a European Commission statement that said Jewish settlements in occupied territory were paralysing the Palestinian economy at European taxpayer expense, Reuters reported.
Israel's Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the European Union's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian Uzal, and told him Israel "strongly rejects" the commission statement of Monday.
The controversy underscored a rift between Israel and Western leaders, led by U.S. President Barack Obama, who have pressed for a halt to settlement building in the occupied West Bank under efforts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The commission's statement, as published on its website, quoted its charge d'affaires in Jerusalem, Roy Dickinson, as repeating Europe's view that settler enclaves Israel has built in West Bank land Palestinians want for a state were illegal.
Dickinson said the settlements and Israeli military measures in the territory it captured in a 1967 war "contribute to strangling the Palestinian economy" making Palestinians more dependent on donor aid.
"And it is European taxpayers who pay most of the price of that dependence," the European statement added.
The Israeli official, Rafael Barak told Uzal the remarks were "unfounded" and the settlement issue was being addressed by Western-sponsored peace efforts alongside demands for Palestinians to rein in militants.
The European Union is a leading donor to the Palestinian government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas and based in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The Commission statement said this year's aid total came to some 202 million Euros.
The West Bank is home to some three million Palestinians and about half a million Jewish settlers.