Mondweiss / October 27, 2021
The State Department said yesterday the U.S. “strongly” opposes the expansion of settlements after Said Arikat of Al Quds Daily said that a U.S. lack of resolve appears to have emboldened Israel to announce new settlement construction.
The new Israeli government on Wednesday approved moved plans to build 3000 more units in illegal West Bank settlements; and the State Department issued its strongest opposition to the plans since Joe Biden took office, calling the plans “unacceptable.”
VIDEO – US State Department Briefing – October 26, 2021:
The State Department spokesperson said Tuesday that the U.S. “strongly” opposes the expansion of settlements. Said Arikat of Al-Quds Daily said that U.S. lack of resolve appears to have emboldened Israel, and Ned Price responded:
“We are deeply concerned about the Israeli Government’s plan to advance thousands of settlement units tomorrow, Wednesday, many of them deep in the West Bank.
In addition, we’re concerned about the publication of tenders on Sunday for 1,300 settlement units in a number of West Bank settlements. 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…
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. We are engaging with our Israeli partners at very senior levels conveying this message.”
Axios is reporting that the Secretary of State called the Israeli Defense Minister yesterday and used the “unacceptable” language.
“The U.S. pressure escalated on Tuesday when [Antony] Blinken called [Benny] Gantz and told him that both the number of housing units and their locations deep inside the West Bank were “unacceptable,” according to the Israeli officials.”
Biden is said to have pressured Israel on settlements during Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to the White House in August. From the readout at the time:
“[Biden] also noted the importance of refraining from actions that could exacerbate tensions, contribute to a sense of unfairness, and undermine efforts to build trust.”
The news in September was that Israel was pausing settlements in response. But this week Israel is back in business.
Prime Minister Bennett comes from a far-rightwing party that opposes a Palestinian state and backs the settlers. His government coalition includes several rightwing parties, and the Israeli government under a constitutional law holds that Jews have the “exclusive” right of “self-determination” in all the land between river and sea.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee said yesterday at the State Department that the statement was “the strongest” the Biden administration has made. “Was there a decision made that you had to start getting tougher on this?”
Price said, “It only stands to reason that our public messaging may shift over time.”
Axios reported yesterday that Michael Ratney, the American chargé d’affaires in Jerusalem, had a “difficult” call with Bennett’s foreign policy advisor Shimrit Meir over the settlements.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006.