US 'deeply concerned' by Israeli plans to advance 3,144 settler homes

Then council is expected to give final approval to plans for 1,800 settler homes, and to allow for the remainder of the plans to be deposited, a move allows for it to advance for final approval. 

A Jewish settler walks past Israeli settlement construction sites around Givat Zeev and Ramat Givat Zeev in the West Bank, near Jerusalem June 30, 2020. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A Jewish settler walks past Israeli settlement construction sites around Givat Zeev and Ramat Givat Zeev in the West Bank, near Jerusalem June 30, 2020.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

The US is “deeply concerned” about Israel’s intention to advance plans for 3,144 settler homes on Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington as he issued his strongest statement to date on the matter.

“We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and ensure calm and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution,” he said.

He took issue in specific with the Civil Administration’s plan to legalize two outposts when the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria convenes on Wednesday for the first time of US President Joe Biden’s term.

“Plans for the retroactive legalization of illegal outposts is unacceptable. We continue to raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israel officials in our private discussions,” Price said. He added that the talks were taking place at very senior levels.

In Jerusalem, the US relayed its strong opposition to Wednesday’s planning council meeting.

American Charge d’Affaires Michael Ratney spoke with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir about the matter, a senior diplomatic source said.

The Higher Planning Council is set to advance West Bank settler housing projects Sunday, including in Itamar. Picture taken June 15, 2020. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)The Higher Planning Council is set to advance West Bank settler housing projects Sunday, including in Itamar. Picture taken June 15, 2020. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

Meir responded by “putting things in context,” the source said, and described the current government’s policy in Judea and Samaria, which is not to annex territory, but to continue steady construction without a sharp increase in building starts.

The Prime Minister’s Office and US Embassy declined to comment.

Some 46% of the projects the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria will debate on Wednesday are for construction in isolated settlements located beyond the planned route of the security barrier.

With the exception of Givat Ze’ev, which is the fifth-largest settlement, all of the projects are slated for mid-size or small communities.

Then council is expected to give final approval to plans for 1,800 settler homes, and to allow for the remainder of the plans to be deposited, a move that allows for it to advance for final approval.

Out of the 1,334 plans, the largest are 399 homes for Revava, 380 for Kedumim and 156 for Givat Ze’ev.

The rest are 100 for Elon Moreh, 100 for Sansana, 86 for Ofarim, 45 for Vered Yeriho, 27 for Karnei Shomron, 18 for Alon Shvut, 116 for Efrat, 10 for Hinanit and seven for Hermesh.

The largest project among those that will receive final approval is 628 for Eli. Other projects include plans for 292 homes for Kfar Etzion, 286 for Har Bracha, 224 for Talmon and 105 for Elon Shvut, 83 for Karnei Shomron, 58 for Beit El, 42 for Givat Ze’ev, 28 for Barkan, 14 for Ma’aleh Michmash, 20 for Shima and 20 for Peduel.

The council will also look to legalize the Mitzpe Danny outpost as a new neighborhood in the Ma’aleh Mishmash settlement, and the Haroeh Haivri outpost as an educational institution.

Similarly on Sunday, the Construction and Housing Ministry published tenders for 1,355 settler homes. It was the first marking of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria of Biden’s term.

This included, according to the left-wing NGO Peace Now, 731 homes in the Ariel settlement, 346 homes in Beit El, 102 in Elkana, 96 in Adam, 57 in Emmanuel and one in Beitar Illit.

The ministry also published tenders for 83 homes in the new east Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat HaMatos.

Bennett has long insisted that he has no plans to freeze settlement activity.

The spokesperson for the European Union said, “We call upon the government of Israel to halt settlement construction and to not proceed with the announced tenders.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the parties.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said that all such settlement activity must cease immediately.