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The New Arab

US rebukes Israel for new West Bank settlement plans

Israel has approved 300 new housing units in the occupied West Bank [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 October, 2016

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The United States rebuked Israel on Wednesday for approving 300 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank, and warned its ally that it is imperiling its own future.

The United States rebuked Israel on Wednesday for approving more settlement building on Palestinian land, and warned its ally it is imperiling its own future.

In a strongly worded statement, the State Department said Israel's approval of 300 housing units in the occupied West Bank "is another step towards cementing a one state reality of perpetual occupation."

The plan, spokesman Mark Toner argued, not only undermines hopes for peace with the Palestinians but "is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state."

The latest Israeli plan, Toner said, would see settlers build 300 housing units on land "far closer to Jordan than Israel... and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote."

He added that Israel's retroactive authorisation of illegal outposts "contradicts previous public statements by the Government of Israel that it had no intention of creating new settlements."

In recent weeks, US officials have adopted a more forceful tone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, accusing it of recklessly accelerating the programme despite international concern.

In July, the Middle East Quartet - a contact group comprising the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations - issued a report calling on Israel to halt settlement building.

But since then, Washington says, the practice has only accelerated, with new housing blocks being approved, local administrative boundaries moved and illegal settlements retroactively approved.

The public rebuke comes after the current US administration signed off on a ten-year, $38 billion package of military aid for Israel.

This package, the biggest military aid deal in US history, was hailed by US and Israeli officials at last week's funeral for former president Shimon Peres as a sign of enduring friendship.

But the State Department noted with concern that Israel had cast Washington's advice on settlements aside even in the wake of the "unprecedented agreement on military assistance."

"It is deeply troubling," Toner said, "that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long term security interest in a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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