In an unusually harsh public criticism, State Department spokesman John Kirby criticized Israel for systematically seizing Palestinian land for the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, insisting that such moves are “fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”
US officials have been criticizing the settlements for awhile, and warning that they are a threat to the two-state solution, but such overt references to seizing Palestinian-owned land tend to be kept carefully out of public statements, at the risk of sparking Israeli outrage.
Kirby sought to head off that outrage, insisting that his comments didn’t justify terrorism, but that the US position that the settlements are illegal under international law had not changed. Netanyahu issued a statement rejecting the comments, and insisting the Palestinians are the real obstacle to peace.
The comments came after Israel announced earlier this week that they intend to build another 800 homes in settlements across the West Bank, including 240 in occupied East Jerusalem. Far-right Israeli officials have been pushing heavily for bigger expansions lately as a way to spite the Palestinians for recent terror attacks.