Israel has categorically rejected criticism by European members of the UN Security Council of its settlement activities in West Bank and East Jerusalem and growing attacks by extremist settlers on Palestinians.

They should have concentrated on peacemaking in centers of bloodshed such as Syria, on helping democracy and moderation take root in Arab countries aspiring to freedom, and on defusing the global danger embodied in the Iranian nuclear race, Israel's foreign ministry statement said.

If, instead... they invest their efforts in inappropriate bickering with the one country where the independent law and justice system can handle lawbreakers of all kinds, they are bound to lose their credibility and make themselves irrelevant, it added.

The European members of the UN Security Council had said that the continued settlement building threatened chances of a future Palestinian state. In addition to this, they had expressed disappointment at violence by settlers. They were reacting to a briefing by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the UN assistant secretary general for political affairs. Great Britain, France, Germany and Portugal called for an immediate halt to Israeli settlement activity.

The four countries gave a joint statement after a UNSC meeting on the Middle East conflict. Israel's continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, send a devastating message, Britain's U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said, reading the four countries' joint statement.

One of the themes that emerged was the severely damaging effect that increased settlement construction and settler violence is having on the ground and on the prospects of a return to negotiations, the joint statement added.