State Department ‘deeply concerned’ over new settlement construction plans

(JTA) — The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply concerned” over construction plans in eastern Jerusalem.

The Israeli government on Wednesday announced the approval of tenders for 323 apartments in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, on top of plans for 770 units in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo, which has a population of 40,000 and also is located in eastern Jerusalem.

“We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two- state solution,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement released Wednesday evening in Washington.

The statement also expressed concern over the demolition of illegally built Palestinian homes in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank which, according to the statement “reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children.‎”

The statement noted that more than 650 Palestinian structures have been demolished this year, which is already higher than the number demolished in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank in all of 2015.

The statement cited the recent report issued by the Middle East Quartet – made up of the United Nations, Russia, the United States and the European Union, which blamed Israel for eroding the possibility of a two-state solution with continued settlement expansion, and also blamed the Palestinians for incitement.

The statement said: ” As the recent Quartet Report highlighted, this is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansion, legalizations of outposts, and denial of Palestinian development that risk entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.  We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”