The United States government has criticised Israel’s settlement expansion plans by Israel in the West Bank in a rare disapproval of its Middle Eastern ally’s policies. Washington has said that Israel’s plans damage “the prospects for a two-state solution”.

US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday unambiguously rejected Israel’s recent push to build more settlements in the West Bank. Price also criticised efforts to retroactively legalise irregular settlement outposts in the Palestinian territory.

Price said, “We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government’s plan to advance thousands of settlement units tomorrow, Wednesday, many of them deep in the West Bank.”

The spokesperson said, “In addition, we’re concerned about the publication of tenders on Sunday for 1,300 settlement units in a number of West Bank settlements. We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm.”

When asked if Israel will face repercussions from the US administration over its plans to expand the illegal settlements, Price choose the evasive path.

He said, “These are concerns that we have discussed at very senior levels, at the most senior levels, with our Israeli partners. Our Israeli partners know where we stand, and we’ll continue to engage with them in our diplomacy on this.”

Illegal settlements carry “no legal validity”

Earlier on Monday, the United Nations also expressed concern about the Israeli announcement, saying that “all settlements are illegal under international law”.

Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in the 1967 war. Since then, it has occupied the land and been building settlements exclusive to Israeli citizens in the territory in what critics call a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.

Earlier in July, in a report presented to the UN Human Rights Council, UN expert Michael Lynk concluded that the Israeli settlements amount to a war crime. In 2016, the UN Security Council condemned the settlements in a resolution that said they have “no legal validity”.

Biden administration’s approach

Since coming into office in January, President Joe Biden and his top aides have been reluctant to criticise Israel in public, other than issuing general warnings against steps that they say harm the two state-solution.

Biden has also rejected some US progressives’ calls to condition US aid to Israel, repeatedly stressing that his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is “ironclad”.

Price’s comments on Tuesday came as Congress was expected to approve $1bn in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, additionally to the $3.8bn Israel gets annually in military assistance. Biden has signalled support for the new funding.

Earlier last week, tensions between Washington and the Israeli government appeared to emerge after Israel designated six Palestinian NGOs as “terrorist organisations”.

On Friday, referring to the designation, Price said, “We believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance.”


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