JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a tender for 1,200 housing units in the E1 corridor connecting Jerusalem to the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim.
The tender was part of 20,000 housing units to be constructed in the West Bank that were announced Tuesday by Israel’s Housing Ministry.
The list of communities includes Efrat and Alon Shvut and other communities in the Gush Etzion bloc, Maale Adumim, Kochav Ya’akov and Eli.
The Prime Minister’s Office nixed the E1 housing hours after the tenders were announced. Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel told the Israeli media that the publication of the tenders is a standard procedural matter.
The Obama administration responded later on Tuesday to the announcement of the West Bank housing tenders.
“We are deeply concerned by these latest reports that over 20,000 additional units are in the early planning stages. We are currently seeking further explanation from the Government of Israel. Our position on settlements is quite clear: We have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate,” National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said. “We have called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations. We do not consider settlement planning, even in its early stages, to be a step that creates a positive environment for the negotiations.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that: “We were surprised by it and we are seeking explanation from the Israeli government. It was not discussed in advance. We don’t recognize the legitimacy of settlements.”
The Palestinians claim that building in the E1 corridor would cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, break up the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state and sound the death knell to a two-state solution.
Israel’s government argues that bypass roads would maintain contiguity.
The Palestinians began setting up outposts in January in the E1 corridor. Two months earlier, the Israeli government approved plans to build settlement housing in the area in response to the Palestinians’ decision to appeal to the United Nations General Assembly for enhanced statehood status.