US Believes 'Critical' for Israel to Refrain from Settlement Activity
21:33 GMT 07.10.2021 (Updated: 13:25 GMT 06.08.2022)
© 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
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US State Dept. Spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday refused to comment on reports that the Biden administration has been pressuring Israel behind closed doors to hold back its settlement constructions in the West Bank but said Washington believes it is crucial to refrain from unilateral steps, including settlement activity.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been planning to approve the construction of 2,000 new housing units in existing settlements and some 1,000 new units on the occupied Palestinian territory, Axios reported.
"We don't comment on private conversations that may be taking place, whether that's between the Secretary and his counterpart and the President and his counterpart," Price said in a press briefing. "We believe it is critical for all parties to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, [and] that of course, includes settlement activity."
The outlet said during a meeting in the White House in late August, Biden told his Israeli counterpart that he expects Israel to show restraint on his settlement plan, and Bennett replied that Israel would build new units according to needs from "natural growth.”
However, after his return from Washington, Naftali told settler leaders that he opposed Biden’s request, Times of Israel reported. This prompted US charge d’affaires in Jerusalem Michael Ratney to reiterate Biden’s request for restraint.
Tel Aviv is now hesitant to approve the construction of new settlements due to pressure from the United States.
The issue of Israel's settlements in the West Bank, considered to be an occupied territory by the United Nations, is one of the main stumbling blocks in the peace process to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.