Israel announced plans to build 3,000 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem one day after the United Nations approved updating Palestine’s status to a nonmember observer state, a move Israel and the U.S. opposed. Palestinians claim the area where the new houses will be built, known as E1, cuts the West Bank in half and complicates the two-state solution, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz notes, “making it difficult for a future Palestinian state to function.” The United States government opposes Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize outposts,” a State Department spokesperson said in July.
— Greg Noth
According to Haaretz, “In the beginning of his term, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the Obama administration a commitment that Israel would not build in the area.”
Referring to the Israeli move, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace” while the White House had earlier described the proposal as “counter-productive.”
The State Department released a statement on Dec. 3:
The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations. This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.
We have made clear to the Israeli Government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy. The United States and the international community expect all parties to play a constructive role in efforts to achieve peace. We urge the parties to cease unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations so all the issues can be discussed and the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security can be realized.
“We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two state solution,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in his White House press briefing on Dec 3.