Press Release
Contact Information: Ghaith al-Omari
August 15, 2011 - 12:00am

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) today urged the US government to use its influence to prevent the construction of a series of recently announced major Israeli settlement expansions in the occupied territories. In its most recent announcement, the Israeli government says it has approved 277 new housing units in Ariel, a settlement that cuts deeply into Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank. This follows several other recent and highly provocative settlement expansion plan announcements, including final approval for 1,600 proposed new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. The Ramat Shlomo plans were initially made public during a 2010 visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden, an announcement described by Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton as “an insult to the United States.”

Other recent settlement expansion plans include 930 new housing units in “Har Homa C,” a hilltop ridge technically in Israel's definition of the “Jerusalem municipality” but that is directly adjacent to Bethlehem and deep into the occupied West Bank. It is part of a ring of settlements around the southern flank of occupied East Jerusalem that threatens to cut the city off from the rest of the West Bank. Plans have also reportedly been proceeding for two other areas in occupied East Jerusalem, involving 2,000 new housing units in the Givat HaMatos settlement, and 700 more in the Pisgat Zeev settlement.

In response to the announcements, the US State Department said such unilateral actions “undercut trust.” A State Department official pointed out, “Jerusalem is one of the final-status issues, and therefore the disposition of Jerusalem should be decided by the parties in negotiations. Unilateral actions by the Israelis or Palestinians that appear to prejudice the outcome of the negotiations are counterproductive. These types of construction are illegitimate and not in the best interest of getting back to negotiations.” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton added that such settlement expansion "threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution and undermines ongoing efforts to resume negotiations."

ATFP strongly opposes the building of these settlements and believes that these announcements are extremely provocative, particularly at a very sensitive time in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Such settlement activity, if completed, would undermine the prospects for a two-state peace agreement, and the credibility and viability of both negotiations and negotiators. ATFP noted the strong American national interest in restarting negotiations and securing a two-state peace agreement. The Task Force said the United States should use its influence with Israel to ensure that these proposed settlement expansions are not completed, and that the Israeli government also refrain from additional provocative announcements.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017