Washington — The Obama administration “does not accept the legitimacy” of announced plans for up to 851 new housing units for West Bank settlements.
“We’re very clear that continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations, including the 2003 Roadmap,” Mark Toner, the State Department spokesman, said Wednesday. “Our position on settlements remains unchanged. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. And we want to see these parties – both parties, rather – refrain from these kinds of actions and to get back into negotiations.”
The announcement Wednesday by Israel’s housing and construction ministry came in the wake of the defeat of a bill in Knesset that would have retroactively legalized illegal West Bank outposts.
Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias said Wednesday evening that in addition to the 300 housing units promised to Beit El in exchange for relocating five apartment buildings housing 30 families, he would approve 551 more in Ariel, Maale Adumim, Adam, Efrat and Kiryat Arba.
Earlier during a news conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, addressing West Bank settlers directly, “There is no government that supports, or will support, settlement more than my government. I also say that there is no government that has withstood such heavy pressures, which could have hurt settlement, and it must be understood that ours is a very complex diplomatic, national and legal environment. And in this complex reality, one must navigate wisely, sagaciously and responsibly. Thus the members of the Government and myself have acted up until now and thus we will continue to act. We will continue to strengthen settlement and we will continue to strengthen democracy in the State of Israel.”