Israel's expansion of settlement bloc harmful to peace, US says

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January 9, 2016 23:01
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The expansion of the territorial boundaries of the Gush Etzion Regional Council in the West Bank is harmful to peace and makes it more difficult to achieve a two-state solution, according to US State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Settlement activity is “illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. Continued settlement activity and expansion raises honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions and will only make achieving a two-state solution that much more difficult,” Kirby told reporters in Washington on Friday.

He spoke days after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon agreed to expand the Gush Etzion bloc to include a 4-hectare site with eight stone buildings that is located off of Route 60 between the Gush Etzion junction and the Kiryat Arba settlement.

Settlers want to operate a tourist center on the property geared to helping visitors take advantage of Jewish tourist sites in the area, including the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The property was owned by the US Presbyterian Church until 2008 where it ran a tuberculosis hospital and then a hostel on the site. Inclusion of the site within the Gush Etzion boundaries would make it easier for settlers to further develop the property.

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