The United States, European Union and United Nations condemned Israel’s planned construction of 3,600 homes in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, saying the massive building plans run counter to peace efforts.
The housing units and a 10,000-resident community intended to be built on the other side of the West Bank barrier near Jerusalem are part of a recently approved plan to expand settlements by about 4,000 homes, including new settlements. The government has said it is simply expanding existing settlements rather than constructing new structures.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered building to proceed despite the international reaction, saying he did not “give a damn” about outside opinion.
The U.S. State Department said the U.S. viewed the plans with “deep concern,” while the European Union said the project was “counterproductive.”
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, urged Israel “to refrain from further settlement activity” and “to take all possible steps to prevent the movement of refugees to and from the territory of the State of Palestine.”
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. While Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it maintains de facto control over large parts of the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Palestinians seek all three areas for a future state.
Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, home to some 450,000 Israelis, are viewed by the international community as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel is seen as further expanding settlements since U.S. President Donald Trump’s diplomatic pivot toward the Jewish state earlier this year, abandoning long-standing U.S. policy of insistence on an Israeli settlement freeze.
Netanyahu’s government, which includes hard-line religious and nationalist parties, is considering further expansion in Palestinian areas to deepen the separation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its eternal, indivisible capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Israel built a wall and fences around the area and rounded up Palestinian militants. It has also built a series of new and improved roads and military checkpoints.
Palestinians say the military build-up is meant to choke off movement within the West Bank, making it more difficult for Palestinians to live or work in Israel proper. The road construction also is seen as providing more protection against possible Palestinian attacks.
Palestinian officials, meanwhile, said authorities had extended a deadline for families to evacuate their homes and evacuate to make way for an Israeli settlement construction project. The extension was announced after a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials at the U.N. on Tuesday.
Palestinians could face eviction from the area called E1 by the Israeli army, which would cut off east Jerusalem from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.