The European Union on Thursday made a veiled threat to impose new economic sanctions on the settlements, calling on Israel to cancel its decisions to publish tenders for 1,500 settlement homes and advance plans for 1,800 more.
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Meanwhile, the United States said it was "deeply disappointed" by Israel's announcements of settlement expansion. "We said on a regular basis that such actions are unhelpful and it is hard to see how these settlements contribute to peace," U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Herf said at a press briefing.
In a statement, the European Union pledged "to continue monitoring the situation and act accordingly. We recall that the EU Foreign Affairs Council has also reaffirmed its commitment to fully and effectively implement existing legislation in relation to settlements."
Behind that diplomatic language stands a series of economic sanctions on settlements that the EU planned to impose last year, but which it froze at Washington's request, so as not to harm the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks then being shepherded by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The planned moves included EU directives to marketing networks on the continent to specially mark imports originating in West Bank settlements, and warning European businesspeople not to make deals or investments in the settlements.
The statement published by EU headquarters in Brussels stressed that in recent months both Israel and the Palestinians have been asked to act with maximum restraint, and to avoid unilateral actions such as settlement expansion that could hurt the chances of reaching a two-state solution.
"We are deeply disappointed that the Israel Land Administration has published new tenders for 1,466 housing units in settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. This move is unhelpful to peace efforts," the European Union said.
"We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse this decision and to direct all their efforts towards an early resumption of the peace talks," the statement added.