Signposts in the Judean Hills east of Jerusal
Signposts in the Judean Hills east of JerusalReuters

Australia has joined France and Britain by summoning its ambassador to convey its "grave concern" over plans to build homes for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

Australia is a long-time friend of Israel but disappointed Jerusalem, as did even the United States, by deciding to abstain instead of voting against the United Nations resolution to grant the Palestinian Authority Non-Member Observer status, thereby acknowledging its unilateral political and territorial demands.

"Australia has long opposed all settlement activity," said Foreign Minister Bob Carr, but he still hangs on to the dead and buried concept of negotiations between Israel and the PA for the establishment of a new Arab country within Israel’s current borders. He said that plans to withhold tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority in order to pay part of the astronomic bill for the electricity supplied by Israel, "enormously complicate the prospects for resuming negotiations between the two sides.”

The United States and Europe have stepped up pressure on Israel to reverse course over building plans for Jews, which they see as a threat to the viability of a future Palestinian Authority state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken a strong stand since the UN vote, announcing plans for a new Jewish neighborhood between the Maale Adumim suburban city and Jerusalem and new homes for Jews in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and the suspension of handing over tax payments that Israel collects for the PA.

Critics within the government, as well as the Ichud Leumi (National Union) in the opposition, have noted that the monetary transfers are, in part, used by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza as well as by the Ramallah-based Fatah regime for fueling incitement to violence against Israel.

The PA is committed by previous agreements, including the Oslo Accords, to desist from all incitement.

One of the most blinding red flags for the international community is Israel’s determination to proceed with a 15-year-old plan to build in the “E1” area of Maale Adumim, located less than five miles east of Jerusalem and the largest city in Judea and Samaria.

The PA considers building for Jews in E1 as a barrier to contiguous PA state that would stretch along the eastern border of Jerusalem. However, it can only be considered a barrier if Maale Adumim, a modern city with tens of thousands of Jews, and a part of the settlement blocs, is to be abandoned.

The US State Department warned on Monday that the E1 area "is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution."

President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney ramped up the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day, directly calling on him to change course.

"We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations," Carney told reporters at the White House.

So far, Netanyahu is not caving in, and an Israel diplomatic source told Voice of Israel government radio Tuesday that European countries expected and even understand Israel’s reaction to the UN vote in favor of the PA, but they think it was too harsh."Israel continues to insist on its vital interests, even under international pressure. There will be no change in the decision that has been made," a source in Netanyahu's office said earlier.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is goading the international community to continue to support him.

He called on the international community to "take the necessary steps to avoid the collapse of everything," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a statement.

The Prime Minister is holding his own on the diplomatic front. London and Paris rejected media reports that they were planning the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassadors to Israel over the plans, but both made their disquiet at developments known.