Israel said Friday it published tenders for 283 new homes in a West Bank settlement, just days after announcing its biggest land appropriation in the West Bank for three decades.
The expansion of Elkana, in the northwest of the West Bank, was approved in January and the tenders published Thursday, the Israel Land Authority said on its website.
The Jewish state in January said it would advance the construction of some 5,000 new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem and the West Bank, including in Elkana, Haaretz newspaper reported at the time.
Haaretz said that move was aimed at diffusing Israeli public anger over the release of Palestinian prisoners under US-brokered peace talks that later collapsed.
The process for those units had been put on hold over the summer during the Gaza war, housing ministry spokesman Ariel Rozenberg told AFP.
The United States and European Union struck out at Israel earlier in the week over its plans to appropriate about 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank, urging Jerusalem to nix the plan and saying it sends a “very troubling message” to those involved in negotiations for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called on Israel to take back the decision to put the 988 acres of land, near the settlement of Gvaot south of Jerusalem, under state control.
“We are deeply concerned about the declaration of a large area as ‘state land’ to be used for expanded settlement building,” Psaki said in a statement. “We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity. We call on the government of Israel to reverse this decision.”
The White House also expressed concern over “reports that new settlement and East Jerusalem construction or planning announcements may be issued at any time, including for the sensitive area of Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem.”
Stressing the Obama administration’s “opposition to any unilateral steps” by both Israel and the Palestinians, Psaki said the appropriation plans “are contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they proceed.”
The plan has already come under harsh criticism from London, the UN, Egypt, human rights groups, Palestinians, and Israeli politicians and activists from the left and center of the political spectrum.
Washington had earlier called the move “counterproductive.”
In a press conference earlier Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Israel was confident in its decision, adding that “the official policy of the Israeli government is that the settlement blocs will remain under Israeli sovereignty under any future peace agreement.”
The Etzion Bloc “reflects a broad consensus in Israeli society, and it’s clear to everyone that the Etzion Bloc settlements will be a part of Israel,” said the foreign minister, speaking at a press conference attended by visiting US congressmen Ed Royce and Eliot Engel.