WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration criticized Israel for reported plans to expand settlements prior to a freeze.
An array of media outlets, quoting anonymous senior Israeli officials, reported Friday that Israel plans to approve hundreds of new homes prior to an anticipated three-to-six month freeze on settlement building to start in October.
The freeze would be part of the U.S. plan to spur forward peace talks with the Palestinians, and would be reciprocated with concessions from Arab nations, including trade opportunities for Israel.
"As the president has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop." the White House said in a statement. "We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate. We do appreciate Israel’s stated intent to place limits on settlement activity and will continue to discuss this with the Israelis as these limitations are defined."
According to the reporrts, the housing starts would be in addition to 2,500 housing completions that the Obama administrations has reportedly said are acceptable. A number of Arab leaders also spoke out against the reports, as well as Israel’s continued insistence that the settlement freeze will not include Jerusalem.