The Israeli prime minister has remained defiant over controversial settlement plans during a visit to Europe, as Israel presses ahead with proposals to build in one of the most sensitive areas of the occupied West Bank.
In Prague small numbers of demonstrators turned out both for and against the Israeli cause.
Benjamin Netanyahu had come to thank the Czech Republic for voting against the Palestinians’ diplomatic upgrade to non-member observer status at the United Nations.
He praised his hosts for opposing what he called a “one-sided” resolution. Israel would not sacrifice its “vital interests for the sake of obtaining the world’s applause”.
“For peace to endure, it must be a peace that we can defend. No other peace can survive in the Middle East. We remain committed, as you said, to a negotiated settlement between us and our Palestinian neighbours,” said Netanyahu.
European Union states have been struggling to agree on a common response to the building plans.
The EU, in line with several countries, has summoned Israel’s ambassador for an explanation.
The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, again denounced the proposed construction.
“The E1 settlement announced by Israel is a red line. I tell you, a red line. Not because it divides the West Bank, and this is correct, but just because it’s settlement activity. So we say this should not happen, and if it will happen we will take legitimate steps and by law, stop Israel from doing this,” he said.
Netanyahu was due next in Germany where Chancellor Merkel was expected to warn him that Israel risked diplomatic isolation.
Back in Israel the first administrative wheels began turning to put the settlement plan on the road.