Foreign Minister Bob Carr has taken the serious step of calling in Israel’s Ambassador to Australia to convey Australia’s concern over Israel’s settlement expansion plans.
Senator Carr instructed his department to call in Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem to express the Australian Government’s ''grave concern'' over reports Israel has decided to build 3,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, to unfreeze planning in the area known as E1 (a 12 square kilometre patch of land, east of Jerusalem) and to withhold tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority.
The action comes in the wake of the United Nations General Assembly vote to give the Palestinian Authority non-member observer status last week. It also follows unhappiness from the UK, France, Sweden, Denmark and Spain, who have all summoned Israeli ambassadors in protest of the plan to built new settler homes.
''These actions enormously complicate the prospects for resuming negotiations between the two sides,'' Senator Carr said in a statement on Tuesday
''I am extremely disappointed with these reported Israeli decisions.''
Mr Rotem was also called in by then foreign affairs minister Stephen Smith in 2010 over the Israeli passport scandal.
A staff member at the Israeli embassy in Canberra was later expelled after an investigation found Israel forged four Australian passports for use in a Dubai assassination.
Speaking from Papua New Guinea, Senator Carr said that Australia had long opposed all settlement activity.
''Such activity threatens the viability of a two-state solution without which there will never be security in Israel.''
The meeting between Foreign Affairs officials and Mr Rotem took take at 2.00pm AEST on Tuesday in Canberra.
Senator Carr said that Australia had also conveyed its concerns to Israeli authorities in Jerusalem.
Earlier on Tuesday, when asked about Israel’s plans for East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the government had already indicated publicly that ‘‘we’re very concerned.’’
''[We’re] very concerned that all sides should act with restraint and very concerned that everyone should find a way back to a path to peace.''