THE Obama administration has labelled Israel's settlement-building programme "provocative" and a threat to peace in one of its harshest condemnations yet.
Plans for a new 2,600-home development in Givat Hamatos – the first new settlement in east Jerusalem for 15 years – were approved. Permission was also given for 1,048 houses in several existing settlements.
It was the latest in a spate of decisions to expand settlements on the Palestinian side of the pre-1967 "green line" border since last month's UN vote granting de facto recognition to Palestinian statehood.
"We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action," said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman. "These plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel's leaders continually say they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk."
While the US has criticised settlement projects before, even Israeli officials admitted the latest denunciation represented a sharp departure in tone from the country's closest ally.
"These aren't just the usual complaints. We are taking it as meaning there will be no more business as usual," one official said. "You can see there is a pattern towards ever-harsher condemnation. It may lead to a more laissez faire (American) approach towards UN resolutions condemning Israel." (© Daily Telegraph, London)