The United States sees Israel's announcement on Sunday of a land appropriation for possible settlement construction in the West Bank as "counterproductive" to peace efforts and urges the Israeli government to reverse the decision, a State Department official said.
Israels Civil Administration in the West Bank announced the takeover of 988 acres (3,799 dunams) belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem. The move clears the way for construction of a new settlement named Gvaot.
The announcement follows the cabinets decision last week to take over the land in response to the June kidnapping and killing of three teenage Jewish boys by Hamas militants in the area.
"We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity," the U.S. official said. "This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue is counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians."
"We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision," the official said in Washington.
The appropriated land belongs to five Palestinian villages in the Bethlehem area: Jaba, Surif, Wadi Fukin, Husan and Nahalin.
The Peace Now anti-settlement group termed it the biggest appropriation in 30 years and a Palestinian official said would cause only more friction after the Gaza war. Representatives of the settler movement welcomed the announcement.
Israel maintains that construction at Gvaot would not constitute a new settlement because the area is officially designated a neighborhood of a long-standing settlement, Alon Shvut. However, the area of Gvaot lies several miles away from Alon Shvut.
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