(JTA) – The Obama administration criticized an Israeli government decision to approve the construction of hundreds of West Bank housing units.
“We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government’s announcement today of the advancement of nearly 300 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, as well as hundreds of new housing units in East Jerusalem,” U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement issued late Wednesday.
Israel announced its approval of the new construction earlier Wednesday after two illegal buildings were razed in Beit El, leading to dissension in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky right-wing government coalition.
The buildings were found to have been constructed on privately constructed Palestinian land and ordered demolished in 2010. Israel’s Supreme Court gave the state until Thursday to demolish the buildings, known as the Dreinoff neighbourhood.
“The United States continues to view settlements as illegitimate and we strongly oppose steps to advance construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” the State Department statement said. “Settlement expansion threatens the two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated resolution to the conflict.”
The U.S. called on Israel to “refrain from unhelpful actions that undercut the possibility of a two-state solution.”
The European Union (EU) in a statement also called on Israel to “urgently reverse recent decisions and put an end to settlement expansion.” The EU also noted that the Israeli announcement “calls into question the Israeli government’s stated commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in the Middle East Peace process.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement issued Wednesday condemned the construction approval announcement and called on Israel to “to halt and reverse such decisions in the interest of peace and a just final status agreement.”
In the same statement, Ban expressed concern about the threat of demolition of the Palestinian village of Sussiya, which Israel claims was built illegally and plans to relocate its residents to an area under control of the Palestinian Authority.
“The destruction of private property in occupied territory is prohibited under international humanitarian law, and for which actions there must be accountability,” he said.