The United States levied unusually harsh criticism at Israel on Tuesday, denouncing plans to seize a large tract of West Bank land for Israeli homes.
The State Department called on Israel to reverse its announced plan to appropriate nearly 1,000 acres in the occupied West Bank.
“We are deeply concerned about the declaration of a large area as ‘state land’ to be used for expanded settlement building,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We call on the Government of Israel to reverse this decision.”
The language was more pointed than U.S. spokesmen typically use, and the specific call to reverse an already declared decision was also unusual.
The United States considers Israeli settlements to be illegitimate and unhelpful but refrains from calling them illegal under international law. Other U.S. allies do call such settlements illegal, as the British government did on Monday.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry was expected to raise the announcement in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.
The West Bank land designated on Sunday for development is near current Israeli settlements, at least some of which would probably become part of Israel proper under a negotiated peace deal. The United States supports such mutually agreed land swaps if the two parties could reach a final peace deal. Kerry’s effort to broker such a deal collapsed this spring, and no new talks are planned.