State Dept. slams new Israeli settlement plan as ‘especially damaging’ to peace

The Obama administration on Monday issued its strongest condemnation to date of Israel's announcement on Friday that it would approve 3,000 new settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Israeli decision was widely seen as retaliation for the United Nations's recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state. The State Department had called the settlement move “counter-productive” on Friday while denouncing the Palestinian vote at the U.N. as an “action-causing reaction.”

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Monday's statement from State Department spokesman Mark Toner, by contrast, was unilaterally critical of Israel.

“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations. This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution,” Toner said.

“We have made clear to the Israeli Government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy. The United States and the international community expect all parties to play a constructive role in efforts to achieve peace. We urge the parties to cease unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations so all the issues can be discussed and the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security can be realized.”