Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to build new homes in the West Bank settlement of Beit El in an effort to defuse a political furor sparked by the court-ordered relocation of other settlers.
Netanyahu has been criticized by members of his government and the Likud party for supporting a High Court of Justice decision ordering the removal of settlement homes built on private Palestinian land in the Ulpana outpost. The Israeli leader said he would comply with the court ruling by relocating five Ulpana apartment houses inside adjacent Beit El, along with ordering the construction of new homes there.
“The Beit El settlement will be expanded with 30 families, and they will be joined by 300 new families,” Netanyahu said today at a press conference in Jerusalem. “I say to all those who think they will use the judicial system to harm the settlement effort that they are are wrong, that exactly the opposite will happen.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner repeated the long-standing U.S. position against Israeli settlement expansion.
“We’re very clear that continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations,” Toner said at the State Department. “Our position on settlements remains unchanged. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity” and want to see both parties “get back into negotiations.”
The Palestinian Authority has said it won’t negotiate directly with Israel unless it halts all settlement building. The U.S. and the European Union have called on Israel to freeze construction in the West Bank.
Netanyahu also opposed a proposed law that would have circumvented the court ruling. The measure was defeated in the Knesset today by a vote of 69-22.
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