WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday said that
Israel’s new settlement plans were “damaging” to efforts to forge a peace
agreement with the Palestinians, as well as in conflict with US
“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West
Bank settlement activity and housing construction in east Jerusalem,” US State
Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement released Monday
“They complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral
negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those
Israel on Friday announced approval of 3,000 more homes in
the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in addition to zoning and planning for the E1
corridor near Ma’aleh Adumim.
Toner called building in E1 “particularly
sensitive,” adding that construction there would be “especially damaging to
efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”
The statement sharpens the
position of the US in reaction to the announcement, which was made on
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had indicated her
opposition to the move in softer language during an address on the Middle East
on Friday night.
“These activities set back the cause of a negotiated
peace,” she said then.
Toner’s statement also noted that the US had
communicated its displeasure to Israel.
“We have made clear to the
Israeli government that such action is contrary to US policy,” he said. “We urge
the parties to cease unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to
Toner later elaborated that he believed the US was
“being evenhanded” in its criticism of both Israel and the Palestinians, which
on Thursday upgraded their status at the UN to non-member observer state in a
unilateral move opposed by Washington and Jerusalem.
criticism of the settlement move was reportedly echoed in harsher language by
former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who attended the Saban Forum
with other leading US and Israeli political figures over the
During a closed session at the forum, Emanuel took Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to task for his treatment of Obama, according to
comments made at an open session by former prime minister Ehud Olmert and
referred to by David Remnick in The New Yorker.
Remnick wrote that
Emanuel “had spoken angrily and bluntly about the way Netanyahu has repeatedly
betrayed the friendship of the United States,” pointing to his “embarrassing the
Obama administration by taking punitive actions against the Palestinian
Authority” on Friday – after the administration voted against the Palestinians
at the UN, supported Israel during the recent Gaza fighting and funded the Iron
Dome missile defense system.
Emanuel was quoted elsewhere as also rapping
Netanyahu for interfering in the US election, saying, “Netanyahu bet on the
wrong man – and lost.”
He also reportedly lambasted Netanyahu for
“lecturing” Obama during a meeting in 2011, about the danger that returning to
the pre-1967 borders would pose to Israel. Emanuel did not respond to requests
The Prime Minister’s Office had no response to the remarks
attributed to Emanuel.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.