US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said overnight Monday in an official statement that the United States is "deeply troubled by Israel's decision to promote approximately 4,500 housing units in the West Bank, and by the reports of changes in the administration of the settlements that accelerate the planning and approval of construction."
"We call on the Israeli government to fulfill the commitments it made in Aqaba in Jordan and Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt – and conduct a dialogue aimed at preventing escalation," the statement said. "We oppose the expansion of settlements and unilateral actions that constitute an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve."
Earlier, the US sent messages to Israel that the Negev Forum, the summit meeting that was expected to take place in early July in Morocco, would be postponed due to the approval of the construction plans in the West Bank.
On Sunday, the agenda for the meeting of the Higher Planning Committee of the Civil Administration was published, according to which Israel will promote construction plans for 4,560 new housing units in the settlements, against the backdrop of the arrival of Barbara Leaf, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs , to visit Israel.
The construction approvals come after the cancellation of the clauses of the Disengagement Law that ban Israelis from living in four northern West Bank settlements and the transfer of the Homesh yeshiva to state land, steps that drew criticism from the US, including summoning the Israeli ambassador in Washington for a conversation. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also serves as a minister within the Defense Ministry, created the Regulation Administration since the formation of the government, which is headed by Yehuda Eliyahu, his confidant, for the promotion and regulation of construction in the settlements on behalf of the Civil Administration.
In addition, the government discussed on Sunday an amendment which will shorten the construction approval processes in the settlements and to transfer the powers to grant the political level approval from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to Minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich. In total, the construction approval procedures in the West Bank will be shortened from six stages to only two stages.
The Americans put pressure on Israel not to approve the promotion of the units, and the U.S. expressed concern that the Palestinians would not come to the next meeting of the Aqaba Summit and or security meetings in Sharm el-Sheikh. Israel said that last February it had decided to promote 10,000 West Bank housing units in two phases, and this is the second phase agreed to by the government vis-a-vis the settlers, a practice that also existed during the Trump administration, according to which every four months the Higher Planning Committee meets and approves the promotion of additional housing units.
The last time the government approved housing units in the settlements was in January, when the political-security cabinet decided to legalize illegal outposts, and later the government decided to promote 9,409 housing units in the settlements, including outside the settlement blocs.