U.S.: Beit El Construction is 'Counterproductive'

The U.S. says that Israel's approval of new homes in Beit El is "counterproductive to the cause of peace."

Elad Benari ,

Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El
Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El
Josh Hasten

The United States warned Israel on Thursday that its reported plans to build additional homes in the Binyamin region town of Beit El were "counterproductive."

"As the president said, Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said, according to AFP.

Earlier, the Civil Administration gave its preliminary approval for the construction of 296 homes in Beit El, based on an agreement that was reached with the residents of the town’s Ulpana neighborhood.

The residents agreed to leave their homes non-violently last year, after the Supreme Court accepted the claim of an Arab man living under the Palestinian Authority, who claimed ownership of the land they sit on, and ordered the homes to be demolished.

In return for the residents leaving, the government promised to build 300 new homes in Beit El. The Defense Ministry had previously given final approvals for the reconstruction of the five buildings that were evacuated and sawed in the Ulpana neighborhood and for the building of 90 new housing units in the town.

The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, slammed Thursday’s move, saying it sent a clear message to Washington that Israel was not interested in resuming the frozen direct talks.

"We condemn this new decision which is proof that the Israeli government wants to sabotage and ruin the U.S. administration's efforts to revive the peace process," he said.

He ignored the fact that the PA has refused to sit down for peace talks with Israel for the past four years, even when Israel imposed a ten-month construction freeze on new Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria. Instead, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has imposed more preconditions on talks.

Earlier this week it was reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had met Housing Minister Uri Ariel and asked him to halt promotion of new projects in Judea and Samaria, including by no longer putting up for bids tenders on new projects. The move meant that Netanyahu was essentially ordering another construction freeze.

However, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said on Thursday that "There will be no construction freeze in the Land of Israel. Not in Jerusalem and not in Judea and Samaria. We proved in the past that freezing construction does not advance peace, and therefore we will continue to build throughout the Land of Israel."