State Department blasts 'corrosive' Israeli construction

State Department spokesman issues scathing condemnation of Israeli plans to build new homes in Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.

Contact Editor
Elad Benari,

John Kirby
John Kirby
Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday blasted Israeli plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, describing them as “corrosive” to peace.

The condemnation came following Monday’s announcement of plans for 770 new housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.

“We are deeply concerned by reports today that the Government of Israel has published tenders for 323 units in East Jerusalem settlements,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

“We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two- state solution,” he added.

“In just the past few weeks, we have seen reports of the advancement of plans for 531 units in Maale Adumim, 19 in Har Homa, 120 in Ramot, and 30 in Pisgat Ze’ev; the advancement of a plan to retroactively legalize an outpost near Ramallah; and the issuance of tenders for 42 units in Kiryat Arba,” said Kirby.

“We are also concerned about recent increased demolitions of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children.‎ More than 650 Palestinian structures have been demolished this year, with more Palestinian structures demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem thus far than in all of 2015,” he charged.

“We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,” concluded the statement.

The statement marks the latest global condemnation of planned Israeli construction. The State Department used particularly harsh language in condemning an announcement earlier this month on construction in Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, which was made following an escalation in terror attacks in Judea and Samaria.

Kirby at the time stated the move “would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions, and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel over the previous construction announcement as well, saying it “raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank.”

Egypt also chimed in, charging that the construction contradicts international law and harms the peace process.