WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is once again condemning Israel for plans to construct housing on land claimed by the Palestinians, saying that a new project announced last week profoundly hurts efforts to forge a two-state solution to the long-running conflict.
In an unusually strong statement, the State Department called plans to construct a “significant” new settlement of up to 300 housing units and establish an industrial zone in the West Bank “deeply troubling” and at odds with stated Israeli commitments. It said going ahead with the proposal would further undermine the possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
“Proceeding with this new settlement is another step towards cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “Such moves will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from many of its partners, and further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace.”
Toner said the proposal was “deeply troubling” because Israel announced the proposal so soon after the U.S. agreed last month to a new 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel. He also said it was “disheartening” as the announcement came the world was mourning the death of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres. U.S. officials said the administration was particularly disturbed because the announcement came as President Barack Obama was visiting Jerusalem last week for the Peres’ state funeral.
“It is deeply troubling, in the wake of Israel and the U.S. concluding an unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further strengthen Israel’s security, that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long term security interest in a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians,” he said. “Furthermore, it is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the U.S. and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for the two-state solution that he so passionately supported.”
The U.S., which has repeatedly criticized Israel for such projects, has refrained from imposing consequences for the actions.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the plans for the construction near Shiloh, west of Ramallah.
Palestinians want their new state in the West Bank with east Jerusalem as its capital.