The United States Thursday sharply criticized Israel's plans to move ahead with 1,000 new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria, the Biblical heartland of the Jews' forefathers, saying it was unhelpful to US efforts to kickstart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"We don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
“We remain hopeful that both sides will look at the important opportunity we have here to build trust and confidence and move back to the negotiating table, and that's what our focus is on."
Details of Israel's plans emerged as US Secretary of State John Kerry makes an intensive effort to rekindle dormant “peace talks,” with the PA demanding a freeze to Jewish settlement building.
The Peace Now anti-settlement watchdog said plans to build 538 new homes in the northern settlement of Itamar and to legalize 137 existing units there were submitted to regional authorities this week for review. If approved, the plans would enlarge Itamar almost five-fold, said the NGO, which is hostile to the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
Also submitted for review were plans for 550 homes in Bruchin, of which 52 have already been built, said Peace Now's Hagit Ofran.
The State Department apparently was not aware of another 1,000 homes that Minister Uri Ariel committed to building on Thursday, in the Etzion Bloc.