The United States on Monday slammed Israel's decision to build 277 new housing units in Ariel.
The approval of construction permits in Ariel comes on the heels of Interior Minister Eli Yishai giving final authorization to build 1,600 apartments in Greater Jerusalem last week. He is expected to approve 2,700 more this week.
"We think unilateral actions by both sides, Israeli or Palestinian, are not helpful to the process to try to get both parties back to the table," US Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer said.
Palestinian Authority Spokesperson Ghassan Khatib called recent building announcements by Israel an "escalation" and called on the international exert more pressure on the Jewish state.
"The policies of every single country in the world (are) that settlement expansion is illegal and an obstacle to peace," Khatib said. "Israel is not taking this seriously. I think these countries have to introduce elements of accountability to their relations with Israel."
The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment.
Some 100 of the housing units in Ariel are designated for families evacuated from Gush Katif during the 2005 Gaza disengagement. The construction is set to be complete in approximately three years.
Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman welcomed the decision, saying it was the largest construction project approved by the government in recent years.
"In the past seven years, no more than 50 apartments were built here," he said.
The government's rush to approve residential construction projects comes amidst 'social protests' in Israel focused on housing shortages, the cost of living, and the high indirect tax burder Israelis are burdened with.