France, Britain, Germany and Portugal – all members of the UN Security Council – said Tuesday that they will issue a joint censure of the plans and by nightfall, the US voiced its disapproval as well.
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In an unusually harsh statement, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that Washington was "Deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action.
"These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel's leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.
"So we, again, call on Israel and the Palestinians to cease any kinds of counterproductive, unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations."
Nuland reiterated the US' unease at Israel's settlement construction plans in the West Bank and particularly in the contested E1 area.
The US believes that such unilateral steps by Israel, which change reality on the ground, are counterproductive to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"The number one way to settle this whole question of building and settlements is for the parties to come together and settle security, settle boundaries between them,' she said.
"That is the right path forward. We don't want to see provocative action on either side. But you're absolutely right that this strong statement today reflects concern about what's going on."
Israel ignores World's criticism
Despite US and Europe's denouncements of Israel's decision to carry on with construction in E1, the Housing Ministry announced Tuesday that it will soon be issuing tenders for hundreds of housing units in the West Bank settlements of Karnei Shomron and Efrat.
The ministry is expected to launch bids for 300-500 new housing units in Efrat and 350 in Karnei Shomron, on top of tenders for the construction of 100 housing units in Ma'ale Adumim that were issued last week.
'Provocative action.' E1 (Photo: Reuters)
Many West Bank settlers lauded the move, pleased at the resumption of construction plans that were shelved a decade ago.
Settlers urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to be deterred by the disapproval of the international community and pursue future construction in the area.
The decision to expand Karnei Shomron "Is a wise decision," said Karnei Shomron Regional Council Chairman Herzl Ben-Ari, "for which the residents of the settlement have been long awaiting. We hope the expansion in Judea and Samaria continues."
Netanyahu has been unshaken by the criticism, and on Tuesday vowed to continue building in east Jerusalem.
"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel and we will continue to build there. A united Jerusalem expresses a wide national agreement," he said.
Meanwhile, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said that the 14 other council members will tell reporters after the council's monthly Mideast meeting on Wednesday that continuing settlement activity is illegal and must be stopped.
Itamar Fleishman contributed to this report
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