U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry early on Wednesday spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sharply protested the decision to appropriate 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of land belonging to Palestinian villages in Gush Etzion and declare them state lands.
Peace Now, which monitors settlements, said this was the largest seizure of West Bank land in 30 years.
The United States expressed anger on Tuesday at the decision by the Israeli government to appropriate the land. 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.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki on Tuesday issued a statement calling on Israel to reverse the move. She noted that the seizure of lands, together with plans for additional settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – which America fears will begin shortly – sent a “very troubling message” and were “contrary to Israel’s stated goal of a two-state solution.”
European governments protested both publicly and in angry phone calls to the Prime Minister’s Office. British National Security Adviser Nigel Kim Darroch called his Israeli counterpart, Yossi Cohen, and conveyed Britain’s objections. Protests also came from France, Spain, and from Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, who was just appointed the EU’s next foreign minister.
The EU also condemned Israel’s move. “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,” the EU spokesman said.
A senior European diplomat said the Israeli decision was especially aggravating because of its timing – only days after a cease-fire had been reached with Hamas in Gaza, and as the international community was trying to help Israel advance such issues as preventing Hamas’ rearmament. "The Israelis have found the best way to put their finer in the eyes of all their friends in around the world," said the European diplomat. He added that instead of focusing now on weakening Hamas and increasing supervision of the Strip, Israel not only makes such a move but presents it as a plan to build a whole new West Bank city, not just a “regular” settlement, as he put it.
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