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US 'deeply dismayed' by Israeli settlement announcement

Comments are the latest from Washington hinting at concern about the direction of Netanyahu's new government
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks at a press briefing in the White House, on 5 May 2022 (AFP)

The United States voiced its dismay at Israel's decision to expand Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, as the UN Security Council considers a draft resolution to denounce the move.

The White House issued a rare rebuke against Israel on Thursday, saying that settlement activity "creates facts on the ground" that reduce chances for a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

"We are deeply dismayed by the Israelis' announcement," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, regarding plans announced on Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to authorise nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank. The plan also outlined the mass construction of new homes in established settlements. 

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"The United States strongly opposes these unilateral measures which exacerbate tensions, harm trust between the parties and undermine the geographic viability of the two-state solution," Jean-Pierre added. 

The comments are the latest from Washington hinting at concern about the direction of Netanyahu's new government.

According to Axios, the Biden administration warned Netanyahu against following through on a government coalition agreement that would give finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich control over administration in the occupied West Bank, equating it with annexation. 

The US has said it will oppose any steps that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution, including illegal settlement expansion, moves toward annexation of the West Bank, and disruption to the historic status quo of holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem.

UN resolution planned

The UN Security Council is currently working on a resolution that would condemn Israeli settlements. The resolution, still in draft form, "reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law".

It also "condemns all attempts at annexation, including decisions and measures by Israel regarding settlements, including settlement outposts", and calls for their immediate reversal.

The text by the Security Council "reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard".

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The US, however, has voiced opposition to the proposed resolution. 

The State Department made clear that the United States, which wields veto power at the Security Council, would not back the resolution reportedly initiated by the United Arab Emirates, a US ally that has normalised relations with Israel.

"Our view is that the introduction of this resolution was unhelpful in supporting the conditions necessary to advance the negotiations of a two-state solution, just like we believe that the news out of Israel on Sunday was unhelpful," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said, referring to Israel's settlement decision.

He stopped short of saying whether the United States would exercise its veto - which would be the first under Biden, who has accused Russia of abusing its veto power.

Tensions in the region are running high. Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem this year so far.

In 2022, at least 220 people died in Israeli attacks across the occupied territories, including 48 children. At least 167 were from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

Meanwhile, 30 Israelis have been killed, including one child, the highest death toll since 2008.

The renewed Israeli violence comes as the military increases operations in the West Bank amid a resurgent Palestinian armed resistance.

CIA director William Burns warned this month that violence in the region was beginning to resemble the Second Intifada.

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