The United States on Monday issued its third consecutive condemnation of Israel's plan to expand settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, calling the move "damaging" to the prospects of a two-state solution.
Israel approved the construction of 3,000 new housing units in Jerusalem and in the West Bank on Friday in response to the UN approving the Palestinian UN bid for non-member observer state status, government officials stated.
The inner cabinet also decided to give the go ahead for the planning of thousands of housing units in area E1 that connects Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.
In a statement by the US State Department, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said: "The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations."
He added: "This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution."
Toner called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to "cease unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations."
The statement came at the heels of harsh condemnation issued by the White House, with spokesman Tommy Vietor calling the move "counterproductive" and saying it could make it harder to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Also Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Israel’s plans, saying “These activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace."