The European Union said it was "deeply disappointed" in a statement issued Thursday following Israel's announcement that plans for about 1,500 new homes in West Bank settlements would be going ahead.
"We are deeply disappointed that the Israeli Land Administration has published new tenders
for 1,466 housing units in settlements in east Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank," the statement read. "This move is unhelpful to peace efforts."
"We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse this decision and to direct all their efforts towards an early resumption of the peace talks," it continued.
The EU has been working to clarify its legal economic guidelines regarding West Bank settlement products, and included what could be seen as a veiled threat of sanctions in their statement.
"We recall that the EU Foreign Affairs Council has also reaffirmed its commitment to fully and effectively implement existing legislation in relation to settlements," it said.
Plans for an additional 1,800 new buildings
were announced on Thursday.
Israel initiated the sudden flurry of settlement activity in response to Monday’s Ramallah ceremony in which members of a united Fatah-Hamas government were sworn in.
The US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro voiced his concern over the new plans earlier Thursday.
Shapiro's disapproval of the Israeli construction plans came amid a serious policy disagreement
with the US over its approach to the new Palestinian unity government.
The US envoy told Army Radio Thursday, "We oppose construction in the settlements and this type of announcement about building. This would happen with or without the disagreement on the new Palestinian transitional government."
From Foggy Bottom, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf reinforced Shapiro's interview, endorsing his characterization of the tense exchange between anonymous US and Israeli officials.
"We have been clear that we will judge this new technocratic government by its actions," Harf said. "Again, their primary goal is to set up elections."
She declined to call the Israeli response hypocritical, given Israel's transfer of aid the day of the unity government's formation. But Harf reserved harsher words for a rebuke of Israel's settlement announcement on Thursday, calling the development "unhelpful and counterproductive," and their ultimate construction "illegitimate."
"We are deeply disappointed," Harf said. Asked whether the US would go further, and possibly ask the Israeli government to reverse the decision, Harf declined to comment.
Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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