The United States is “deeply troubled” by the Israeli government’s intention to plan more than 4,000 “settlement units in the West Bank,” Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, stated on Sunday.
“We are similarly concerned by reports of changes to Israel’s system of settlement administration that expedite the planning and approvals of settlements,” Miller added.
Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a cabinet meeting that it will become easier to obtain building permits in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
“The construction boom in Judea and Samaria and in all parts of our country continues,” said Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli finance minister, Sunday. “As we promised, today we are advancing the construction of thousands more new units in Judea and Samaria.”
Barbara Leaf, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, arrived in Israel the prior day. The itinerary for her June 17 to 24 trip includes meeting in Jerusalem with “senior Israeli political and military leadership to discuss areas of mutual interest, including expanding and deepening Israel’s integration into the Middle East and constraining Iran’s destabilizing behavior,” per a State Department release.
In Ramallah, Leaf is slated to meet “senior Palestinian leaders to discuss priority issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations, including U.S. efforts to support the Palestinian people.”
Per what Miller referred to on Sunday as Washington’s longstanding policy, it opposes “such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve and are an obstacle to peace,” he stated of the planned construction.
“We call on the Government of Israel to fulfill the commitments it made in Aqaba, Jordan and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and return to dialogue aimed at de-escalation,” he stated.