WASHINGTON - The Biden administration on Tuesday strongly condemned Israel's plans to advance housing units in Israeli settlements in its firmest public rebuke of Israeli policy to date.
Senior U.S. officials told Naftali Bennett's office in discreet talks that their concerns mainly relate to the expected construction in the depths of Palestinian territory. The messages were conveyed, among other avenues, from the office of U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
"We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government's plan to advance thousands of settlement units, many of them deep in the West Bank. In addition, we're concerned about the publication of tenders on Sunday for 1,300 settlement units in a number of West Bank settlements," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
"We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution. We have been consistent and clear in our statements to this effect," Price continued.
A committee of Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank will meet on Wednesday to possibly approve plans for around 3,100 housing units in settlements and 1,300 in Palestinian towns and villages in Area C, the section of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control.
The State Department spokesman also added that "we also view plans for the retroactive legalization of illegal outposts as unacceptable. We continue to raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israeli officials in our private discussions."
When pressed on the evolving nature and the harsh rhetoric surrounding the new public messaging, Price noted that "our public messaging on this is consistent with what we are seeing transpire so far. It only stands to reason that our public messaging may shift over time."
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Israel invited bids for the construction of 1,355 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank on Sunday, the first time housing units in West Bank settlements have been promoted since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.
The issuing of bidding process is the last step before the government begins building the units, which have been practically approved.
According to the plan, 729 units will be constructed in Ariel, 324 in Beit El, 102 in Elkana, and the rest will be built in Geva Binyamin, Immanuel, Karnei Shomron and Betar Illit.