The United States has slammed Israel for continuing to announce new settlement construction on land claimed by the Palestinians in an unusually rare and blunt criticism of its top Mideast ally.
The State Department accused Israel on Tuesday of engaging in a "pattern of provocative action" that runs counter to statements from Israeli leaders that they are committed to peace. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said "We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action. These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk."
The tough comments came as Israel's prime minister rejected international criticism of plans to build thousands more Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, saying construction would move forward.
Earlier on Tuesday, the European Union members of the UN Security Council – Britain, France, Germany and Portugal – were expected to issue a joint statement condemning the Israeli government's decision to construct homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem, located beyond the Green Line.
A sub-committee of the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee on Monday gave preliminary approval to a plan to build 1,500 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.The announcement came just two weeks after Israel declared its intention to construct 3,000 new residential units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, raising the ire of the international community.
The European countries are expected to express their concern in the statement over the viability of the two-state solution, in the wake of Israel's construction plans. On Monday, the U.S. state department spokeswoman said that the U.S. opposed Israel's settlement expansion and has consistently conveyed to Jerusalem its objections.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the issue on Tuesday while on a visit to the northern city of Acre, saying all Zionist parties should support construction in Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel and we will continue to build in it," he said. "The unity of Jerusalem is something that reflects a wide national agreement." Netanyahu's statement came after he was heavily criticized on Monday by the Labor Party, Yesh Atid and Meretz.
An official in the Prime Minister's Office clarified Monday that the decision to build in Ramat Shlomo did not represent new construction plans, but was rather a new stage in an existing project.
"These are not new homes," the official said. "The intention to build them was publicized years ago, and what happened today was just a discussion on objections to the plan. This is just another planning stage, not the beginning of construction."
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