In response to the European Union's criticism on the expansion of the West Bank settlements, Israeli officials insisted Monday that the settlements are not an obstacle for peace.
Earlier on Monday, the European Union's 27 foreign ministries gathered in their headquarters in Brussels to discuss Israel's recent announcement that it is planning to build 3,000 new housing units in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the E1 territorial stretch connecting them.
"The EU is deeply dismayed by and opposes the new construction plans which threaten peace efforts," the EU ministers said in a statement following the meeting.
It further said that the plans to build in E1, which would bloc a potential territorial stretch of a future Palestinian state in the area, may lead to a "forced transfer of civilians."
In response, the Israeli foreign ministry reiterated comments made earlier on Monday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, charging that the settlements are not an obstacle for peace.
"Israel regrets the one-sided wording of the conclusions. Facts and history both prove that Jewish settlements never constituted an obstacle for peace," the ministry said in a statement sent to Xinhua on Monday.
"The root cause of the absence of peace with the Palestinians is their refusal to engage in direct negotiations and their unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people," the statement further said.
Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu told reporters that "the suggestions the construction in the E1 area of Jerusalem preclude a Palestinian state and stands in the way of peace is false."
The prime minister accused the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, of refusing to further the peace talks, which came to a halt in 2010 amid the construction in the settlements.
Amid the stern condemnation from the international community regarding the construction plans, Netanyahu denounced the world's "complacency," saying that "the international community exacted no price from the Palestinians for their refusal to negotiate."
One by one, world countries summoned their Israeli ambassadors and threatened to push further diplomatic measures against Israel if it goes ahead with its plan to expand the settlements, including the United States, Britain, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, France, Canada, Australia and others.
The announcement of the construction plans was made less than 24 hours after the United Nations' General Assembly approved the Palestinian Authority's bid to have its status upgraded to that of a non-member observer state, earlier this month.