US Reportedly Wants Israel to Refrain From Authorising New Settlement Expansion in West Bank
© AP Photo / Oded BaliltyThis June 30, 2020, file photo, shows a view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Efrayim in the Jordan Valley. One of the world's best-known human rights groups says Israel is guilty of the international crimes of apartheid and persecution. Human Rights Watch cites discriminatory policies toward Palestinians within Israel's own borders and in the occupied territories. In so doing, the New York-based group joins a growing number of commentators and rights groups that consider Israel and the territories as a single entity in which Palestinians are denied basic rights that are granted to Jews. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
© AP Photo / Oded Balilty
According to Israeli media reports, the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is planning to authorise the construction of 2,000 new homes for Israeli settlers in a portion of the West Bank controlled by Tel Aviv, while also giving the green light to 1,000 homes for Palestinians.
The US believes that Israel should not move forward with reported plans to expand Israeli settlements in Zone C of the West Bank, The Times of Israel has reported, citing a State Department spokesman. According to the official, it is crucial for Tel Aviv to take steps that "will promote calm and reduce tensions".
"We believe it is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and fundamentally undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. This certainly includes settlement activity", the official reportedly said.
This is reportedly the first time a Biden administration official has commented on Washington's position concerning the settlement policy of new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The latter is slated to meet with the US president at the end of August. Tel Aviv has so far not confirmed the Israeli media reports that it plans to authorise the construction of several thousand homes in Zone C, which includes 60% of the West Bank's lands and is controlled and governed by the Israeli authorities.
The Bennett government's reported plan includes authorising the construction of 2,000 homes for Israeli settlers, thus potentially escalating tensions with the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, the endeavour allegedly includes authorisation for 1,000 homes for Palestinians, who have been struggling for years to get a green light from Tel Aviv to construct their homes.
The planned move has prompted criticism from the Palestinian Authority, who reportedly addressed the US for help, citing Joe Biden's opposition to new Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and deemed illegal by a majority in the international community. Yet, an anonymous source in the Israeli government told the newspaper Haaretz that the reported expansion of settlements in the West Bank was a "calculated risk" on the part of the Bennett Cabinet with regard to the Biden administration.