State Department ‘deeply concerned’ by Israel’s new settlement construction plans
(JTA) — The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply concerned” over Israel’s construction plans in eastern Jerusalem.
On Wednesday, the Israeli government announced the approval of tenders for 323 apartments in neighborhoods there on top of plans for 770 units in Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb with a population of 40,000 also in eastern Jerusalem.
“We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement released Wednesday evening. “These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two- state solution.”
The statement also expressed concern over the demolition of illegally built Palestinian homes in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank that “reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children,” according to the statement.
The statement noted that more than 650 Palestinian structures have been demolished this year, which is already higher than the number demolished in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank in all of 2015.
It cited the recent report issued by the Middle East Quartet – the diplomatic grouping made up of the United Nations, Russia, the United States and the European Union — that blamed Israel for eroding the possibility of a two-state solution with continued settlement expansion, as well as the Palestinians for incitement.
“As the recent Quartet Report highlighted, this is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansion, legalizations of outposts, and denial of Palestinian development that risk entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict,” the statement said. “We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”