ISTANBUL MID-EAST OCT 26, 2021 10:00 PM GMT+3An Israeli flag is painted on the surrounding wall of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Migdalim near the Palestinian town of Nablus, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (AP Photo)
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters late Tuesday that the United States is “deeply concerned” about Israel’s plans to build 1,300 more illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Expressing strong opposition to Israel’s plans to advance thousands of settlement units in the occupied West Bank, Price said that these moves were inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and were damaging to the prospects of a two-state solution that Washington has advocated.
The official also said that the U.S. will “strongly oppose” such expansion on occupied Palestinian land.
“We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government’s plan to advance thousands of settlement units,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
“We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions,” he said.
On Monday, the European Union also called on Israel to halt settlement construction and not go ahead with tenders for about 1,300 new settlement homes.
“Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the parties,” a spokesperson for the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, said in a statement. The EU has consistently made clear that it will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed on by both sides, the spokesperson added.
Israel on Sunday published tenders for about 1,300 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and authorities are also expected to discuss proposals for another 3,000 homes.
The announcement from the Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry under right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government said tenders had been published for 1,355 homes in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Those new homes add to the more than 2,000 residences that defense sources said in August would be authorized for West Bank settlers. Housing Minister Zeev Elkin, a member of the right-wing New Hope party, said in a statement that “strengthening Jewish presence (in the West Bank) was essential to the Zionist vision.”
A government planning committee is also expected in the coming week to discuss the proposals for about 3,000 new settlement units.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the new settlement plans could have a “catastrophic impact on chances to make peace on the basis of the two-state solution and on regional, United States and international efforts to build confidence between the Israeli and Palestinian sides,” according to Reuters. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, speaking at a weekly Cabinet meeting, called on world nations, and especially the U.S., to “confront” Israel over the “aggression” that settlement construction poses for the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) will be keenly watching for a response from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has said it opposes unilateral Israeli settlement construction as being an obstacle to a two-state solution to the conflict. About 475,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, a development considered illegal under international law, on land Palestinians claim as part of their future state.
Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the dovish Meretz party, said Monday that his faction “will explicitly not agree to actions that will harm the chances of reaching a solution” with the Palestinians and called on his government to refrain from them.
“I understand that this government, in the existing situation, won’t sign a peace treaty with the Palestinians right now, but still, we must avoid actions that worsen the situation,” he said.