The United States government has launched a stinging attack on Israeli settlement expansion after more than 1,360 new houses were announced, saying it amounts to a “systematic process of land seizures”.
The U.S. State Department was joined in criticism by U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the International Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, but it appears to have had no effect on Israeli leaders.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the plans were “the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalisations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution”.
Israeli plans reportedly include 560 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, five miles from Jerusalem, plus 200 in the city itself, as well as more than 600 new homes in Beit Tzefafa, an Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
It comes after Palestinians killed two Israelis, including a 13-year old girl, and members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet pushed for more, with Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin saying the announcements were “not enough”.
On Friday, the Quartet reported that Israel had taken 70 per cent of Area C, which makes up most of the West Bank and includes the majority of agricultural lands, natural resources and land reserves. In the past three years, only one permit for Palestinian housing in Area C has been approved.
In response to the Quartet’s criticism of settlement expansion, an Israeli government spokesman said it “perpetuates the myth that Israeli construction in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace”.U