Israel has announced plans to build thousands of new settlements in the West Bank, drawing condemnation from the United States, the United Kingdom, and many others.
The Trump administration last year announced an unprecedented move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that was opposed by many nations but remains the policy of the White House. Now, in support of peace talks, Israel says it wants to build 3,500 new housing units in the West Bank in order to accommodate West Bank Palestinians.
“Israel intends to continue to build housing for its citizens on all parts of the historic Land of Israel, even in areas the Palestinians claim as part of a future independent Palestinian state,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Washington was “deeply disappointed that the Government of Israel continues to operate settlements despite pledges to cease.” She said the United States called on all parties to work towards a “lasting and comprehensive peace.”
She also said the United States supported “the U.N. Security Council’s decision to affirm its long-standing position that Israeli settlements are illegitimate and should not be recognized as such.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a statement, said that the decision was “deeply disappointing.”
“If the Government of Israel is to fulfil its obligations under the Road Map, the Government of Israel must end settlement expansion,” Hunt said. “It has an important opportunity to do so.”
In his own statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said “for the EU and the international community it’s important to see that they are also treating this matter of settlements as an international priority.”
The announcement comes a day after the Israelis formally established in the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time a non-Jewish community, the Shalem Beth Din, which represents the needs of Jews living in the West Bank.
“This event lays the foundation for wider cooperation in social, educational, cultural and religious spheres,” Israel’s Treasury said in a statement.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the far-right Jewish Home party said in a statement that the move was a step toward establishing a larger Jewish community in the region.
“Right now, many Jewish youth live in isolated settlements in the depths of the West Bank,” Ariel said. “Today, they can live in the heart of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, and be linked to a larger community on the eastern border of the country. This will enable the exchange of ideas and experiences that is vital for promoting the welfare of the Jewish people.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council will vote later on Sunday on a resolution that calls for an end to Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.