Beit El
Beit ElIsrael news photo

The State Department on Wednesday night joined the calls of condemnation against Israel’s planned construction in Beit El and in Jerusalem.

“We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government’s announcement today of the advancement of nearly 300 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, as well as hundreds of new housing units in East Jerusalem,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

“The United States continues to view settlements as illegitimate and we strongly oppose steps to advance construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” he continued.

“Settlement expansion threatens the two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated resolution to the conflict. We continue to urge the Israeli government to refrain from unhelpful actions that undercut the possibility of a two-state solution,” the statement concluded.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had earlier approved the "immediate" construction of the 300 homes in Beit El and planning for another 504 homes in Jerusalem.

The 300 units approved Wednesday were promised by the Israeli government three years ago after the relocation of the Ulpana houses in Beit El, but Netanyahu publicly denied intending to fulfill that promise earlier this month. Netanyahu's renewed assurance to build the structures is widely seen as direct compensation for the Draynoff saga.

The announcement was followed by a series of condemnations. UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the construction approval, saying that "settlements are illegal under international law, an impediment to peace and cannot be reconciled" with Israel's "stated intention to pursue a two-state solution."

Ban urged Israel "to halt and reverse such decisions in the interest of peace" his spokesman said.

Later on Wednesday, the European Union (EU) denounced the construction plans and said they “call into question the Israeli government's stated commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in the Middle East Peace Process.”

“Moreover, the governmental plans to consider the approval of unauthorized outposts across the West Bank would further undermine the practical possibility of implementing the two-state solution. The EU expects the Israeli government to demonstrate its commitment to the two-state solution not only in words, but also through its actions,” the EU said in a statement, adding that “all settlements are illegal under international law”.

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi also issued a statement of condemnation, denouncing the Israeli move as a “war crime”.