The United States is "concerned" about the Israeli government decision to turn three West Bank outposts into settlements, and is seeking clarifications from Israel, the State Department said Tuesday.
"We are obviously concerned by the reports that we have seen. We have raised this with the Israeli government," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We don't think this is helpful to the process, and we don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity."
A special ministerial committee decided Monday night to legalize the
three West Bank outposts of Rehalim, Bruchin and Sansana. Israel has
promised the international community not to create new settlements and
has not done so for over a decade.
UN Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki-moon joined the growing chorus of condemnations to the decision, saying he was "deeply troubled" by the move.
"The Secretary-General reiterates that all settlement activity is
illegal under international law," a statement from Ban read, adding that
the decision was a "provocation" and contrary to Israel’s obligations
under the Road Map.
"The Secretary-General is disappointed that such a decision comes at a time of renewed efforts to restart dialogue."
Palestinian leaders reacted strongly to the settlement legalization on Tuesday, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas calling it a "dead end" and PLO official Saeb Erekat threatening to take the issue to the UN Security Council, according to Palestinain Ma'an news agency.
A spokesman for Abbas condemned Netanyahu's decision, saying that the prime minister "has pushed things to a dead end yet again," Ma'an reported.
Erekat, meanwhile, said that Palestinian leaders are examining ways to secure a UN Security Council resolution that would condemn Israeli settlement building. Erekat also called on Israel to choose between peace and settlements, warning of the demise of the two-state solution would the Israeli government sanction further settlement projects, the report stated.
Jordan and France both condemned the Israeli decision as well. The French foreign ministry released a statement saying that the move "sends a very negative signal, which is contrary to the interests of peace in the region." It added that France "considers all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East
Jerusalem to be illegal and an obstacle to peace. The outposts must be
dismantled in accordance with Israel’s obligations under the road map."
Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh also denounced the move, saying the country "condemns Israeli settlement activities as well as its unilateral measures," AFP reported.
Israeli government officials have said that the decision to formalize their status did not “change the reality on the ground,” and that the move neither represented the establishment of new settlements or the expansion of existing ones. Rather, they said, the move merely gave legal standing to the three communities which, for various technical reasons, had never been granted that status in the past.
The government approved the creation of Bruchin on May 19, 1983, Rehalim on November 27, 1991, and Sansana on June 28, 1998 as legal settlements, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.