Washington Rebukes Israel For Gush Etzion Building Plan

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

The United States, Britain and France have rebuked Israel for its announced plan to build housing on a tract of land in the Gush Etzion bloc in Yehudah and Shomron.

The nearly 1,000 acres were declared state land by the military-run Civil Administration on Sunday, clearing the way for construction of a fifth city in the region.

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” a State Department official said in Washington, calling the move “counterproductive” to efforts to achieve a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. The official decline to be identified.

Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas terrorists in the same area in June.

Construction of a major community at the location, known as Gevaot, has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

The British government followed suit on Monday, deploring the decision, saying the move would seriously damage Israel’s international reputation.

“The UK deplores the Israeli government’s expropriation of land around the settlement of Etzion,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement.

“This is a particularly ill-judged decision that comes at a time when the priority must be to build on the ceasefire in Gaza. It will do serious damage to Israel’s standing in the international community.”