President Shimon Peres's trip to the United States appeared to begin on the right foot, however, this was soon marred by an ill-timed announcement by Israel of additional settlement building plans.
The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee discussed the construction of 942 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood in the south of the city, beyond the Green Line on Sunday, and Haaretz was informed that same day that Defense Minister Ehud Barak plans to sign off on four settlement development plans.
The Defense Ministry, however, has only confirmed a new zoning plan for one of the four settlements.
The prospect of increased settlement building in the West Bank prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a statement Monday saying that “the United States is deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions with respect to settlement construction."
The State Department chastised Israel, saying "not only are continued Israeli settlements illegitimate, Israel’s actions run counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations”.
The State Department statement added that the building of housing units in East Jerusalem would be detrimental to building good faith between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that the lack of resolution to the conflict "harms Israel, harms the Palestinians, and harms the interests of the United States and the international community”.
The plans Barak is reportedly considering approval for are for the settlements of Rotem, Eshkolot-Sansana, Halamish-Neve Tzuf, Nofim, and Kiryat Netafim.
All of the above settlements were founded following a government decision, and all of their lands are converted state lands.
The plans set to be signed will in fact perpetuate the status quo in these settlements, disallowing any new legal construction, making the planned signing more of a symbolic achievement.
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