Netanyahu to Kerry: West Bank Building Plans Don’t Constitute New Settlement

After particularly harsh U.S. criticism of construction plans, Netanyahu told Kerry that Shvut Rachel expansion will house settlers from settlement of Amona if no other option found after its demolition.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Netanyahu and Kerry during a meeting in Jerusalem, June 2013.
Netanyahu and Kerry during a meeting in Jerusalem, June 2013.Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday. According to a senior Israeli official, Netanyahu told Kerry that the building plans for Shvut Rachel in the West Bank did not constitute the establishment of a new settlement, as Washington claims.

Rather, the plans were meant to create alternative housing for residents of the unauthorized outpost of Amona if no other solution can be found, Netanyahu said in a phone conversation, according to the official who asked not to be named.

The phone call came after particularly harsh U.S. criticism on Wednesday of the construction plans. The Israeli official did not say whether Netanyahu explained to Kerry why the approved building plans call for 98 housing units with an option to increase that number to 300, when only 40 families live in Amona.

In addition, Israeli officials fear that the Obama administration might take advantage of the gap between the November 8 presidential election and the January 20 inauguration to push for a resolution in the UN Security Council on the conflict with the Palestinians that Jerusalem would consider unfavorable.

Settlement construction in the Shiloh neighborhood in the West Bank.Credit: Emil Salman

The UN Security Council is to hold a special meeting next week on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Arria Formula meeting will not involve a vote and is expected to be open to the media. Foreign Ministry officials fear it will turn into international condemnation of the government’s policy in the territories and set the stage for an anti-settlement resolution in the Security Council after the U.S. elections.

On Wednesday, the State Department and the White House made unusually harsh statements against the building plan.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the decision marked a violation of a commitment undertaken by the Israeli government to the U.S. administration and said this isn’t how friends behave.

“We had public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this new announcement – so when you talk about how friends treat each other – this is also a source of concern. There is a lot of disappointment and great concern here at the White House,” he said.

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