In two strongly-worded statements, the EU and the U.S. governments Wednesday condemned Israeli plans for settlement expansion.
"These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
The Israeli government announced on Wednesday that it had issued tenders for 323 housing units in the area of East Jerusalem, a move that the U.S. State Departparted described as as “provocative and counterproductive.”
“We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace,” Kirby added.
Meanwhile, his European counterpart David Kriss also criticized the expansion project on Wednesday saying that “It contributes to the establishment of a ring of Israeli settlements around the city, thus further cutting East Jerusalem off from the southern West Bank.”
The latest Israeli expansion plan is in addition to 770 housing units that are expected to be built in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo.
“The decision raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state. The EU calls on Israel to reverse this decision and to cease its settlement activity,” Kriss said.
Over 500,000 Israelis are currently living in 120 illegal settlements built since 1967, including in Jerusalem — considered illegal by a range of international and regional bodies like the U.N. and the EU, among others.
The news comes as the Israeli human rights watch group B'Tselem announced on Monday that Israel has destroyed more Palestinian households in the West bank in 2016 than it had every other year in the last decade.