Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid Flash 90

Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) on Monday sharply criticized the Sunday declaration of 4,000 dunams (988 acres) near Beitar Illit in Judea as state land, labeling the move harmful "opportunism."

"This is opportunism and was not brought to the Cabinet, and at the current time it simply causes damage to Israel," complained the minister.

"We're after a military operation, there's a sensitive international front before us," added Lapid. "What was so pressing precisely now to cause more crisis with the Americans?"

Lapid's statement refers to deteriorating relations with US President Barack Obama's administration, after Obama cancelled a routine missile shipment to Israel during Operation Protective Edge and ordered greater scrutiny on future shipments.

The leftist minister, who in February cut all funding to Judea and Samaria, further stated "I supported and will support the settlements in Judea and Samaria, but we must consider how to do things. The decision yesterday raises the question of what was this good for precisely now."

As Lapid noted, the international community has indeed lost no time in heaping criticism on Israel's declaration of empty land that has not been claimed by Arab residents as state land.

Obama's administration set things off Sunday, saying "we have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity. ...We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision."

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond took up the charge on Monday, saying his country "deplores" the move and threatening "this is a particularly ill-judged decision that comes at a time when the priority must be to build on the ceasefire in Gaza. It will do serious damage to Israel’s standing in the international community."

Egypt, which is mediating the ceasefire between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas, likewise said Monday "this is not a positive step - it contradicts international law and will have negative consequences on the peace process."

Rounding out the diplomatic finger-wagging was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon; his spokesperson said Monday that Ban is "alarmed" by the announcement, calling it "illegal" and urging Israel "to refrain from settlement activity."

It is worth noting in this context that the 2012 Levy Report, which has yet to be adopted by the government, debunked the false claim that an Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria is an "occupation" according to international law.

Nevertheless, the outpouring of international criticism has reportedly been a reason why Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has submitted and instituted a silent building freeze in Judea and Samaria, canceling projects and development in Israel's biblical heartland.

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