US condemns Israel for expanding Gush Etzion boundaries

The Obama administration downplays Palestinian terrorism and refuses to recognize the Jewish historic right to all of Judea and Samaria. 

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

The US State Department on Friday condemned Israel’s decision to expand the boundary of an existing municipality in Judea, claiming it hinders attempts to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel’s defense ministry in late December added a compound containing a few homes to the jurisdiction of the Gush Etzion regional council, near Jerusalem.

The land that is being added was purchased by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz and his wife, and is referred to as “Beit Bracha.” Jerusalem Councilman and Israel Land Fund (ILF) Director Arieh King allegedly covertly obtained the abandoned church complex adjacent to Highway 60 three years ago, and worked to renovate the compound, according to Israel National News.

State Department Spokesman John Kirby said Friday that “continued settlement activity and expansion raises honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions and will only make achieving a two state solution much more difficult.” He added that the United States remains “deeply concerned” about the move, “which effectively creates a new settlement on 10 acres in the West Bank.”

The Palestinians claim that Judea and Samaria, along with east Jerusalem, as parts of their future state. They consider all Israeli construction there to be illegal — a position that is backed by the international community. Israel says Israeli communities along with other core issues like security should be agreed upon in peace talks, which the Palestinians systematically avoid.

The compound at Gush Etzion is located south of a junction that has been the scene of multiple Palestinian terror attacks against civilians and soldiers over the past three and a half months.

Hagit Ofran, of the Israeli extreme left-wing anti-settlement group Peace Now, said an Israeli group bought the compound legally from a church in Sweden. She said it was not clear when people would move in.

“Now the compound is part of the municipality, so it is official,” she said.

Kirby also discussed alleged “excessive use of force” by the IDF in its fight on terror and Palestinians held at security checkpoint. Incidentally, he did not discuss the daily Palestinian terror attacks, which also serves as a stumbling block for the peace process.

Kirby’s remarks came amid near-daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers that killed 27 people mostly in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming assaults.