US says Israel’s new West Bank settlements undermines pursuit of peace

Washington [USA]: The United States has issued a strong rebuke over Israel’s plan to build new housing tracts in the West Bank, calling it a setback to peace in the region.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has called the announced construction a setback to peace in the region and suggested that the Israeli Government had broken its word, reports the CNN.

“We did receive public assurances from the Israeli Government that contradict this announcement. I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said during a speech in 2009, “The territorial issues will be discussed in a permanent agreement. Till then we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements.”

The Israeli officials have characterized the planned construction as an expansion of an existing settlement and said that it would provide housing for the residents of Amona, a West Bank outpost that is supposed to be evacuated and razed later this year.

But US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the construction amounts to the creation of a new settlement.

“This settlement’s location deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than Israel, would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote,” Toner said while “strongly condemning” the Israel move.

He said the timing of Israel’s announcement shortly after the US and Israeli agreed on a multi-billion dollar defense agreement and days after President Barack Obama attended the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres was “deeply troubling.”

A statement from Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the additional housing was not a new settlement but the units are intended to provide a housing solution for the residents of Amona who must leave their homes in accordance with the demolition order issued by Israel’s High Court of Justice.

The statement added that Israel remained committed to a “solution of two states for two peoples.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, decried the Israeli plan and said, “Israel continues to impede international efforts to achieve peace in Palestine and the region amidst the complete inaction by the international community to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it continues to commit against the land and people of Palestine”. (ANI)