The White House has expressed strong disapproval of a controversial Israeli plan to build nearly 700 new apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem Al-Quds, where Palestinians hope to set up the capital of a future state.
“The United States opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem [Al-Quds]. The status of Jerusalem [Al-Quds] is a permanent status issue that must be resolved by the parties through negotiations and supported by the international community,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement issued on Monday.
“Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally preempt, or appear to preempt, negotiations. Rather, both parties should return to negotiations without preconditions as soon as possible.
“The United States recognizes that Jerusalem [Al-Quds] is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem [Al-Quds], and safeguards its status for people around the world,” the statement added.
The Israeli plan has undermined US efforts to jump-start the stalled Middle East peace process.
Tel Aviv is currently under intense pressure from the international community to halt the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank. Israeli settlements are widely considered the main obstacle in the way of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Under the 2002 Roadmap for Peace plan brokered by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia, Israel has to ‘dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and freeze all settlement activities.’
There are currently 121 Israeli settlements and 102 Israeli outposts built on Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967.
These settlements and outposts are inhabited by a population of approximately 462,000 Israeli settlers. Some 191,000 Israelis are living in settlements around Jerusalem Al-Quds and an additional 271,400 are spread throughout the West Bank.
All of these settlements and outposts, which have been erected on occupied land that the Palestinians claim for a future state, are illegal under international law and have been condemned by numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions.