Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) sharply criticized the European Union (EU) and the U.S. State Department on Tuesday, after both issued condemnations of Israel’s plans to declare 4,000 dunams of land in Judea, mostly in Gush Etzion, as state land.
"Israel will continue to work to promote settlement on its land - just as every other country in the world does," declared Akunis.
“It is strange at this time, when terrorist groups of Islamic extremists slaughter innocents, behad journalists in front of the cameras and continue their journey of madness targeting the free world, what concerns foreign ministries around the world is the decision to build and develop the Gush Etzion region, which was and will remain the homeland of the Jewish people,” he added.
In its statement earlier Tuesday, the EU said that “settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to render the two-state solution impossible.”
“The EU reiterates that it will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” the statement continued.
In Washington, meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the decision as well and urged Israel to reverse it.
"We are deeply concerned about the declaration of a large area as 'state land' to be used for expanded settlement building," she said in a statement quoted by Reuters, echoing comments by an unnamed U.S. official on Sunday.
"We call on the Government of Israel to reverse this decision," she added.
Sunday’s decision by Israel, which opens the possibility of further construction in the region, is one of Israel's responses to the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel, and Gilad Sha'ar. The three were kidnapped in Gush Etzion and their bodies were found several weeks later in a field near Hevron.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas issued a condemnation of Israel’s decision, with his spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudeineh saying that the decision would “bring about a further deterioration” in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
On Monday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the decision as well, saying he is "alarmed" by it.