The White House on Friday condemned Israeli plans to build 450 new units in the West Bank as “illegitimate and counterproductive” to achieving peace.
“We have deep concerns about these highly contentious settlement construction announcements,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
“They will have detrimental impacts on the ground, inflame already heightened tensions with the Palestinians and further isolate the Israelis internationally.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki repeated the same remarked during a press briefing with reporters Friday.
The Israeli announcement, which comes just weeks before a March 17 election, further strains relations between the United States and its main Middle Eastern ally.
President Barack Obama’s administration has been irked by Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address Congress on Iran in early March. Obama has said he will not meet Netanyahu during that trip because it is too close to the Israeli vote, when the prime minister will seek re-election.
The Housing Ministry told Israel Radio that the tenders in question had been issued in the past, and were renewed automatically since construction did not take place after its initial approval.
A senior Palestinian official said the measure constituted a “war crime.”
“What the Israelis announced is part of a wider war… against the Palestinian people,” Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Wassel Abu Yusef told AFP.
“This is a war crime which should push the settlements issue to the International Criminal Court.”