Has Israel finally overstepped the mark? Within 24 hours of the UN vote granting Palestinian “non-member statehood”, the Israeli government announced the building of 3,000 more Jewish settlement homes on Palestinian land in Arab East Jerusalem.

Israel may just have gone one step too far.  The move has triggered an international firestorm of criticism. From London to Washington, from Berlin to Paris, even including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, there has been some of the firmest criticism of the Israeli government seen in recent years. Ban Ki Moon warns that the 3,000 home settlement would destroy any prospect of a two-state peace negotiation.

This is getting serious. Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, reports that Britain and France are considering withdrawing their ambassadors from Israel. Such a move would be without precedent.

The Israelis have gone further. On the heels of the UN vote, the Israelis have frozen the transfer of taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

In its six-decade existence Israel has rarely looked so isolated. That UN vote mustered the full panoply of frustration with the Israeli Government. That isolation is distilled in an article in the very same Haaretz newspaper.

The UN General Assembly voted 138 to nine, with 41 abstentions and five no-shows. The no votes were Israel itself, the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Panama. Three of these — the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau are former US colonies which are now “freely associated” with the US. These entities enjoy US zip codes and much else that gives them the status of all but American states.

As my last Snowblog suggested, Britain has been stumbling towards being critical of Israel.  Foreign Secretary William Hague’s condemnation of the 3,000-strong settlement plan was more than strong by his standards.

But it’s hard to imagine that Britain would go so far as to withdraw her ambassador. If it happens hold the front page. It would represent the UK’s most decisive opposition towards the settlement campaign that has seen half a million settlers move into the occupied territories in the past decade.

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