Middle East

US concerned over Israel’s settlement activity: State Department

The United States is deeply concerned about Israel's reported plans to build an additional 323 units in settlements in East Jerusalem on top of 770 units previously announced in the settlement of Gilo, the U.S. State Department said.

Such action by Israel "continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kirby called the settlement activity "corrosive to the cause of peace."

In addition to the plans for East Jerusalem and Gilo, Kirby cited plans for other units, including 531 in Ma’ale Adumim, 19 in Har Homa, 120 in Ramot, and 30 in Pisgat Ze’ev. He also noted a plan to legalize an outpost near Ramallah; and tenders for 42 units in Kiryat Arba.

"These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution," he said.

According to the advocacy group Peace Now, Israeli authorities issued tenders for the construction of 323 housing units in East Jerusalem. Peace Now, which opposes settlements, said the tenders were for homes that were offered in the past and never taken up.

Last week, the Jerusalem municipality filed construction plans for 770 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, part of a 1,200-home project that won initial ratification in 2012.

The U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, told Reuters on Thursday the Israeli policies are destroying prospects for a Palestinian state.

"I remain increasingly concerned by the near-daily advancement of the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem," he said in an email.

Israel says Jews have a right to live anywhere in Jerusalem, a city it considers its "eternal and indivisible capital." Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The United States is also concerned about increased demolitions of Palestinian houses and buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which "reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children," Kirby said.

The activity raises doubts over Israel's commitment to a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

Israel says it carries out demolitions because Palestinians had built them without permits. Palestinians and foreign governments monitoring settlement activities and demolitions say permission is nearly impossible to obtain.

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