Construction in Judea and Samaria
Construction in Judea and SamariaFlash 90

The Biden administration is discussing additional steps it can take in response to Israel's latest announcement on the authorization of nine communities in Judea and Samaria and the construction of 9,000 new housing units in the region, US officials told Axios’ Barak Ravid on Wednesday.

According to report, in the days leading to the announcements, Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer had numerous conversations with White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.

Three US officials told Axios some of these conversations were very difficult and turned into tough, and at times heated, arguments over the policy. The Prime Minister’s Office did not dispute this description. The White House declined to comment, but other US officials claimed the discussions were civil.

US officials quoted in the report said McGurk and Nides pushed very hard in private against the planned decision and made clear the Biden administration opposes any legalization of outposts and the approval of any number of new housing units.

A senior Israeli official said Dermer told his US counterparts that the legalization of outposts was part of the coalition agreement.

A US official said the Biden administration made it clear that Netanyahu’s coalition agreements were not its problem.

The senior Israeli official also said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition partners had pushed for a much bigger announcement.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir wanted 14,000 housing units to be approved and more than 20 outposts legalized, but Netanyahu toned it down. “Netanyahu promised that the number of outposts legalized will be in single digits," the official told Axios.

Israeli officials also told the US that only around 2,500 housing units will start to be built immediately while another 7,000 are just moving up the planning process with some of them to be actually built in eight years’ time, according to the official.

US officials said they told the Israelis there will be a strong response to the upcoming decision.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, other State Department officials and the White House didn’t use the term “condemnation,” but stressed they are “deeply troubled” and “concerned” about the Israeli decision.

A senior US official said the Biden administration’s public statements were just the first phase of its response and stressed that there are discussions on further steps the administration could take to make its position against the settlements clear.