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      U.S. Joins World, Condemns Legalization of Communities

      State Department spokeswoman says Washington is opposed to the legalization of Sansana, Rechelim and Bruchin.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 4/25/2012, 5:15 AM

      Rechelim
      Rechelim
      Hillel Maeir

      The United States on Tuesday joined those condemning Israel for its decision to legalize three Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

      AFP quoted State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland as having reiterated Washington's opposition to settlement activity in Judea and Samaria. According to the report, Nuland said the United States asked Israel, through its embassy in Tel Aviv, for “clarification.”

      “We are obviously concerned,” Nuland told reporters. “We don't think this is helpful to the process, and we don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.”

      She added, “We make this case every time we have an incident like this that it is not helpful to the process -- it doesn't get us where we need to go. We will continue to raise it as we have.”

      On Monday, a ministerial team that had been appointed by the government announced that Sansana, Rechelim and Bruchin, which were built in the 1990s based on decisions of previous governments, will receive a legal status which hadn’t been given to them until now.

      AFP noted that the decision was announced just as U.S. envoy David Hale was visiting the region in an effort to revive the moribund peace process.

      Hale met in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who also condemned the Israeli decision. Nuland said, according to AFP, that Hale also held talks with Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators.

      Nuland rejected a charge that Israel was undercutting the U.S. envoy's mission and said, “David Hale has been in the region all week trying to work on the issues involved here and bring the parties back to the table.”

      Earlier Tuesday, France said all Israeli construction in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem is illegal, while Judeh condemned Israel for "legalization of three settlements and unilateral activity."

      Later, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he is “deeply troubled” by Israel’s decision to authorize the communities, which were built on state land with government approval, but lacked crucial paperwork.

      “The Secretary-General is disappointed that such a decision comes at a time of renewed efforts to restart dialogue,” a statement from Ban’s office read.