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White House accuses Israel of betraying trust over settlement expansion

US State Department said building housing units 'closer to Jordan than Israel' helps cement perpetual occupation
The White House said it received Israeli assurances that contradict the new settlement plans (AFP)

The White House accused Israel of a betrayal of trust on Wednesday, warning that plans to build hundreds of new settlement homes deep in the West Bank were moving the country toward a "one-state reality of perpetual occupation".

Days after Obama approved a $38 billion Israeli military aid package and attended former president Shimon Peres's funeral in Jerusalem, the White House railed at the construction of 300 housing units on land "far closer to Jordan than Israel".

Warning that the decision jeopardises the already distant prospect of Middle East peace as well as Israel's own security, press secretary Josh Earnest said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's word had been called into question.

"We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this announcement," he said.

"I guess when we're talking about how good friends treat one another, that's a source of serious concern as well."

In a strongly worded statement, the State Department said building the units "is another step toward cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation".

The plan not only undermines hopes for peace with the Palestinians but "is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state," spokesman Mark Toner argued.

Washington has long opposed Israel's policy of building Jewish settlements on land in the West Bank that would be claimed by the Palestinians in any negotiated "two-state" peace deal.

US officials have adopted a more forceful tone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in recent weeks, accusing it of recklessly accelerating the program despite international concern.

The Middle East Quartet - a contact group comprising the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations - issued a report in July calling on Israel to halt settlement building.

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