THE South African government summoned the Israeli ambassador on Thursday to lodge its concern about Israel’s decision to build 3,000 new settler homes on the occupied West Bank, Deputy International Relations and Co-operation Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim told a briefing in Pretoria.

"South Africa’s view is that the more the building takes place, the more you’ll end up with a little series of bantustans," Mr Ebrahim said.

Israeli ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg was summoned earlier and received by department officials, he said.

"If these settlements continue, the question of having an independent Palestinian state becomes less and less possible," Mr Ebrahim said, adding that Western governments such as Britain and France had registered similar protests with Israel.

On Wednesday, South Africa said it "strongly condemned" Israel’s decision to move ahead with its plans to construct homes in the so-called E1 area of the West Bank.

Angered by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood on November 29, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government retaliated the next day, saying it would build the new dwellings for settlers. South Africa co-sponsored the assembly’s resolution.

South Africa and Israel have fallen out repeatedly this year, previously over the labelling of goods from the occupied territories and over a request to South African citizens to avoid travel to Israel as a way of registering their displeasure with the Jewish state.

At the same time a group of South African Christian leaders will be visiting Palestine on a one-week "solidarity" visit till Sunday.