U.S. to Israel: Reverse 'Deeply Concerning' Decision to Appropriate West Bank Land

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The West Bank settlement of Efrat is seen on September 1, 2014. Credit: AFP

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that Israel's decision to appropriate 4,000 dunams of West Bank land was "deeply concerning" and urged it to "reverse the decision."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the decision to expropriate the land, and reports of further settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank sent a "very troubling message" and were "contrary to Israel's stated goal of a two-state solution" and a peace deal with the Palestinians. 

Another State Department source earlier this week deemed the move "counterproductive", but Psaki's remarks marked the first official U.S. condemnation.

Since the decision was announced on Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has conducted several conversations with senior Israeli officials to express the administration’s displeasure. A senior U.S. official said Washington is also angry that “Israel didn’t update us in advance and surprised us with this decision.”

The European Union on Tuesday also urged Israel to reverse its decision to expropriate the land, joining in on calls from France and Egypt.

"We condemn the new expropriation of land in the West Bank, relating to plans for further settlement expansion, announced by the Israeli government on Sunday," the EU spokesman said. "At this delicate moment, any action that might undermine stability and the prospect of constructive negotiations following the cease-fire in Gaza should be avoided."

Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel stands behind its decision to expropriate West Bank land, adding that "the official policy of the government of Israel is first and foremost to focus on the settlement blocs, which would clearly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any [future] settlement."

Speaking at a press conference with U.S. Congressmen Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, Lieberman said that "Gush Etzion reflects a wide-ranging consensus in Israeli society, and it's clear to everyone that as part of any settlements Gush Etzion would remain a part of the state of Israel. I think we stand behind that decision."

Also Tuesday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said at a conference in Tel Aviv that the expropriation of land was a move of underhanded opportunism that wasn't submitted for the cabinet's approval and is damaging to Israel in the international arena.

"We are after a military operation, facing a sensitive international front, and it was difficult for us to maintain the world's support as it is," he said. "What was so urgent right now to create another crisis with the Americans and the world?"

On Sunday, Israel announced the expropriation of land in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group said was the biggest such claim in 30 years.

and urged the Israeli government to reverse the decision. The U.K., France and Egypt also condemned the decision.

Foreign Minister Avigdor LiebermanCredit: AP

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