US: 'Our position against unilateral Israeli settlement activity is clear'

Bennett has pledged not to freeze settlement construction, including the advancement of plans for such buildings.

 US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/POOL)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/POOL)

The Biden administration has clearly opposed unilateral settlement activity, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington, in response to a query about US pressure on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to halt such action.

“Look, we don’t always – in fact we never read out our private diplomatic conversations, the back and forth we have, whether that’s with our Israeli partners or any partner around the world,” Price said.

“But suffice it to say we have made our position very clear, and when it comes to unilateral action like settlement activity, we have also made that very clear,” he said.

“And in fact, I just reiterated where the United States stands on settlement activity. There should be no question about that,” Price said on Thursday.

He spoke in the aftermath of a report by The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Walla, that the Biden administration was quietly calling on Israel to restrain settlement activity.

Price, however, has been fairly blunt about the Biden administration’s opposition to it, including at the Washington briefing on Thursday.

“We believe it is critical for all parties to refrain from those unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and, again, undercut efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution,” he said. “That includes, as I was saying before in a different context, annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions and evictions” and “incitement to violence.”

Price also spoke of US opposition to Palestinian Authority monthly stipends to jailed terrorists and family members of slain ones. In addition, he condemned violence by settlers and Jewish extremists against Palestinians.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett shake hands during a meeting at the White House in August. (credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS) US PRESIDENT Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett shake hands during a meeting at the White House in August. (credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

The State Department spokesman spoke as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr wrapped up his three-day visit to the area, where During his visit he held talks with Israelis and Palestinians. The US embassy in Jerusalem released a summary of his visit, including a list of topics that were raised during the talks, such as humanitarian issues, the two-state solution and PA stipends for terrorists. There was no mention about settlement activity.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has pledged not to freeze settlement construction, including the advancement of plans for such building. In practice, however, the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria last convened in January, just before US President Joe Biden was sworn into office. Since then it has not met to significantly advance building plans. A meeting to push forward plans for 2,223 settler homes was canceled due to a strike and has not been rescheduled.

Yesha Council head David Elhayani and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan both issued warnings to Bennett that a settlement freeze would bring down the government.

“The ball is in Bennett’s court, not in Biden’s – if construction is frozen, the government will not exist,” said Dagan, who belongs to the Likud Party, which is in the opposition.

Elhayani, however, is a member of the New Hope Party which is part of the coalition. His message, however, was similar to Dagan’s.

“President Biden knows that harming construction in settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley means the fall of the current government. We will not tolerate this gross American intervention,” Elhayani said.

We expect Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to reject this demand outright,” he said.