Netanyahu Rejects U.S. Criticism of Settlement Expansion as 'Unacceptable'

A plan for the construction of new housing units in Ma'ale Adumim and East Jerusalem spark criticism from U.S., UN.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) walks alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame as he inspects a guard of honor upon arriving at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, July 6, 2016.
Stringer, Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Wednesday afternoon to American criticism regarding the construction of 800 housing units in Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem, saying, "We are familiar with the American's position. It's not new and it's unacceptable for us. Construction in Jerusalem and construction in Ma'ale Adumim, with all due respect, is not what distances peace."

Netanyahu made the comments from Rwanda where he met with President Paul Kagame. "What prevents peace is first and foremost the persistent incitement against the existence of the State of Israel and it's about time that all the nations of the world recognize this simple reality. And there's another truth: The way to solve conflicts is through negotiations.

"We are always ready to conduct direct negotiations without preconditions with our neighbors, but they aren't prepared to do the same. These are the two things preventing peace and not a few more apartments near the municipality of Ma'ale Adumim or a few neighborhoods in Jerusalem," said Netanyahu.

At the beginning of the week, the prime minister and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman approved a plan for 800 new units to be built over the green line: 560 of them in Ma'ale Adumim and 240 in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot, Gilo and Har Homa. Simultaneously, the two approved the construction of 600 units for Palestinians in Givat HaMatos in East Jerusalem.

The U.S. voiced criticism over the plans on Wednesday, when a State Department spokesperson said, "If it's true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions, and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also criticized the decision, with a UN spokesperson saying that he is "deeply disappointed. This raises legitimate questions about Israel's long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank."