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US denounces Israel's illegal settlement building

October 27, 2021

The Biden administration has said it "opposes" the advancement of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The move is a shift from the open support of settlements from ex-President Trump.

A view of Jewish housing in the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement, annexed to the controversial E1 area in the West Bank, outside Jerusalem, on Saturday, October 16, 2021
Israel is pushing ahead with settlement constructions despite objections by the Biden administration, the international community and the PalestiniansImage: Debbie Hill/UPI Photo via Newscom/picture alliance

In a policy shift from the previous US presidential administration, the White House on Tuesday said it was "deeply concerned" about Israel's continued building of settlements on the West Bank.

The administration under President Joe Biden had repeatedly warned Israel to halt its building on land in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This has marked a radical shift to the stance taken by the Trump administration.

"We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Hanan Ashrawi on Conflict Zone

Why did the US comment on Israeli settlements?

"We are deeply concerned about the Israeli government's plan to advance thousands of settlement units," Price told reporters.

The remarks came after tenders for some 1,300 housing units in the West Bank were published on Sunday.

Israel's right-wing Housing Minister, Zeev Elkin, called the continued construction "essential to the Zionist vision" of strengthening Jewish presence in the West Bank.

Around 475,000 Israeli Jews live in illegal — according to international law — settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh had called on Washington to "confront" Israel on its settlement expansion.

Settlements a thorny political issue

The previous White House administration had bucked the trend in US foreign policy with Israel, greenlighting settlements on occupied Palestinian land and even sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a tour of one of the settlements.

Now, more and more members of Biden's Democratic Party are growing sour with the White House's traditionally unquestioning support of Israel.

In June, several Democrat lawmakers wrote to Biden calling on him to condemn acts that undermine efforts to forge peace in the region.

The current Israeli administration also has its own issues to deal with.

While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett comes from the far-right of the political spectrum, with close ties to the settler movement, his main coalition partners, led by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, favor a more centrist path and are less willing to upset their US backers.

ab/wmr (dpa, AFP)