The United States backs Israel’s authorization of new construction projects in the West Bank, saying Washington’s Middle East ally has not violated its settlement moratorium.
Speaking about 112 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said the move did not amount to a breach of the moratorium that the Israelis previously announced.
"On the other hand, this is the kind of thing that both sides need to be cautious of as we move ahead with these parallel talks, Crowley told reporters in Washington on Monday.
Under international pressure and unprecedented criticism from the US, Israel in November unilaterally instituted a 10-month pause in settlement building in the West Bank.
The decision received a chilly welcome from the Palestinians as the freeze fails to give the Palestinian demand of a full, permanent halt for it does not stop the work on some 3,000 houses, nor does it include the ones in East Jerusalem Al-Quds.
The 10-month freeze also allows for construction of synagogues, schools and what Tel Aviv views as community projects.
Israel now has given a green light to the construction of some 112 new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, citing safety considerations and saying the units were approved ahead of the moratorium.
While the US has announced Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to start indirect talks, Palestinian negotiators warn the Beitar Illit announcement will strain the fragile agreement and sabotage peace efforts.