U.S. Strongly Condemns 'Accelerated, Systematic' Settlement Activity by Israel

State Department says recent construction announcements by Israel 'continued a pattern of provocative and counterproductive actions.'

Palestinian construction workers in the West Bank settlement of Susya, in 2014.
Palestinian construction workers in the West Bank settlement of Susya, in 2014. Reuters

The U.S. State Department published Thursday an exceptionally strong condemnation of a string of decisions by the Israeli government in recent weeks to expand construction in the West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

State Department spokesman John Kirby claimed that the U.S. has identified an "acceleration" of construction in the settlements and accused Israel of "a pattern of provocative and counterproductive action ... that systematically undermines the prospects for a two-state solution."

The statement come in the wake of a number of recent Israeli announcements of plans to advance construction projects in the West Bank. On Wednesday, a tender for 320 new housing units in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem was published; on Monday, a plan to build 770 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood, also past the Green Line, was announced, as well as plans to build more than 500 new units in Ma'ale Adumim and 42 in Kiryat Arba.

The string of announcements has sparked American anger, especially due to the fact the first were made only two days after the Quartet report on the stalemate in the peace process. The report severally criticized Israeli settlement construction, however the Americans exerted pressure on the Quartet to balance the report and make sure it also condemns the Palestinians for incitement and violence against Israelis. The U.S. joins a number of other nations and organizations who denounced Israel's construction, like the EU, the UN, the U.K., Germany, France, Turkey and Japan.

"We are deeply concerned," Kirby said in a statement. "We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. 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."

He also voiced concern regarding the recent demolition of Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli civilian and military control. He stressed that the number of Palestinian homes destroyed by Israel since the beginning of 2016 was larger than all those razed in 2015.

"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," he 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," the statement concluded.