WH 'deeply concerned' by Israeli settlements

The White House on Tuesday issued a sharp public rebuke of the latest Israeli settlement plans and accused Israel of endangering peace talks with the Palestinians, a second-term priority for President Obama.

In an emailed statement, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the Obama administration was “deeply troubled” by reports that Israel has issued tenders for 20,000 settlements in the disputed West Bank. She said the administration was seeking “further explanation” from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

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“Our position on settlements is quite clear: We have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate,” Meehan said. “We have called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations. We do not consider settlement planning, even in its early stages, to be a step that creates a positive environment for the negotiations.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to call off peace talks if the tenders aren't revoked, Haaretz reports. He is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday.

Notice of the tenders was also greeted with consternation by Netanyahu's office, according to Haaretz. The Israeli daily quoted sources close to the Israeli leader blasting Housing Minister Uri Ariel's announcement as “irresponsible and thoughtless.”

“Israel is concentrating all its diplomatic efforts on the Iranian issue in order to avoid a bad deal,” a source reportedly said, “and suddenly this move comes in and steers all international attention to the issue of settlements.”

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