Netanyahu, Kerry discuss settlement housing plans by phone

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to clarify plans to build housing units for settlers being evacuated from an unauthorized outpost in an existing settlement.

Netanyahu told Kerry that the plans do not create a new settlement as the White House and the State Department allege, according to several Israeli news reports.

The plan calls for the construction of 98 housing units in the settlement of Shiloh located deep in the West Bank. The 40 families of the Amona outpost would be relocated there if no other solution can be found, Netanyahu told Kerry according to reports citing unnamed Israeli officials.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the evacuation of the Amona outpost by the end of the calendar year after determining that most of its housing units are build on privately owned Palestinian land.

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The Shiloh plan also allows for the construction of 200 additional housing units in a second phase of construction. Israel claims the Amona land and the land for the Shiloh construction are largely State-owned land.

The call between Kerry and Netanyahu comes days after spokesmen for the State Department and the White House slammed the approvals using exceptionally harsh language.

“It is deeply troubling, in the wake of Israel and the U.S. concluding an unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further strengthen Israel’s security, that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long-term security interest in a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians,” deputy State Department spokesman Marc Toner said on Wednesday, linking U.S. aid to Israel with Israel’s settlement policies.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest linked Israel and the United States’ special relationship in his condemnation on Wednesday. “The recent announcement from the Israeli government does provoke strong feelings in the administration. We did receive public assurances from this government that contradict this announcement. I guess when we’re talking about how friends treat each other, that’s a source of serious concern as well.”

Meanwhile, The UN Security Council will hold a special meeting this week on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Initiated by the Palestinians, the meeting was formally requested late last week by Malaysia, Venezuela, Senegal, Egypt and Angola in a plea titled “The settlements as the obstacle to peace and a two-state solution.”