Department of State objections to Israel’s building plans grow louder

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Members of the Biden administration have publicly and privately pushed for Israel to reconsider its decision to add 3,000 new homes in the long-disputed West Bank region near Jerusalem.

This marks the first time since Biden took office that Israel has approved new construction and, although the plans will not be finalized until after the Israeli government passes its budget next week, various ranking members of Department of State fear the move would stoke violence.  

On Wednesday, Axios reported Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a tense phone call with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in which Blinken referred to the building plan as “unacceptable” and urged Israel to not proceed. 

A day earlier, during a departmental press briefing, Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price issued the first public decrial from the United States. 

“We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution,” Price said. “We have been consistent, as I said, and clear in our statements to this effect. …We also view plans for the retroactive legalization of illegal outposts as unacceptable. We continue to raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israeli officials in our private discussions.”

On the heels of the United States’ action, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that 12 European nations had also joined the call for Israel to halt its building plans. 

In a joint statement Thursday,  the nations of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden called upon Israel to “reverse its decision to advance plans for the construction of around 3,000 settlement units in the West Bank.”

“We reiterate our strong opposition to its policy of settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which violates international law and undermines efforts for the two-state solution,” the statement reads.

President Joe Biden has not yet made an official statement on the matter, although on Tuesday Axios reported that he had privately objected to the expansion. 

Israelis and Palestinians have a deep history of fighting over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas Israel has held since claiming the land in 1967’s Six-Day War, a brief-but-brutal conflict between Israel and a coalition of nations consisting of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. 

Palestinians, want the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is east of Jerusalem, to be a part of their desired autonomous state, while Israelis view the West Bank as part of their historical and Biblical land.  

At present, about 2.5 million Palestinians and 700,000 Israelis live in the West Bank. 

According to The Guardian, Israel’s plan also involves adding 1,600 homes for Palestinians living in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank, but this move has been criticized by Palestinians as insufficient.