A top Palestinian official on Tuesday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to “destroy” the two-state solution by pledging to further develop and even effectively annex one of the biggest Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called Netanyahu’s comments “totally unacceptable.”
“This is an attempt by Netanyahu to destroy the two-state solution and a clear refusal of any attempt to revive the peace process, especially by the United States,” he said.
Earlier Netanyahu, visited the city of Ma’ale Adumim where he vowed to build thousands of new homes and threw his support behind a bill to redraw Jerusalem’s municipal borders to include the settlement.
The comments drew an angry condemnation from the Palestinians and created a new test for the Trump administration, which has been working for over eight months to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu said during the visit that he was announcing a period of “enhanced development.”
“We will build thousands of housing units here,” he said. “We will add the industrial zone needed and the expansion needed to allow for the advanced development of this place.”
“This place will be part of the State of Israel,” he added.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state and consider all of Israel’s settlements to be illegal — a position that is widely shared by the international community. Israel says the settlements’ fate should be resolved through negotiations.
Maale Adumim is a settlement of roughly 40,000 people just east of Jerusalem.
Israelis widely expect that Ma’ale Adumim will be annexed as part of a land swap under any future agreement with the Palestinians. Critics argue, however, that extending Israeli sovereignty to the large settlement, and a parcel of land known as E-1 between it and the capital, would effectively sever the northern and southern halves of the West Bank, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
US President Donald Trump has taken a softer line toward the settlements than his predecessors, and his key advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and ambassador to Israel David Friedman, have longstanding ties to the settlement movement.
Even so, Trump has still asked Israel to show restraint.
Early this year, Israel shelved a proposal to annex Maale Adumim under apparent pressure from the White House.
Trump’s Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, has been in the region meeting with the sides as part of his effort to restart talks.
There was no immediate reaction from Greenblatt’s office to Netanyahu’s comments.