US threatens Israel over building homes in Samaria

The Obama administration slammed what it perceived as Israel’s decision to build a new community in Samaria. In reality, Israel is building close to 100 homes in the already-existing community of Shiloh.

The Obama administration on Wednesday issued unusually sharp criticism of Israel and strongly condemned its recent decision to advance a plan that would build some 100 housing units in the Shiloh area in Samaria, a compensation for Israeli families who are soon to lose their homes following a court ruling that their homes must be demolished because they were mistakenly built on privately owned Arab land.

The plan also includes optional plans for another 200 housing units and an industrial zone.

In a statement authored by Deputy Department Spokesperson Mark Toner, the administration voiced opposition to the move that would “create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank,” an erroneous statement because Shiloh has existed for decades.

The move would “further damage the prospects for a two state solution,” Washington asserted. Israel has long maintained that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are not an obstacle to peace, and that a demand to remove all Jews from a future Palestinian state is a racist demand which amount to ethnic cleansing.

The administration further claimed that “this approval contradicts previous public statements by the Government of Israel that it had no intention of creating new settlements. And this settlement’s location deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than Israel, would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote.”

The new construction “is deeply troubling,” especially in the wake of the recently signed Israel-US military assistance pact, the statement added.

The statement also pointed out that “it is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the US and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for the two state solution that he so passionately supported.”

Responding to these words, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely explained that Israel’s current democratically elected government does not feel obligated by Peres’ legacy and has chosen another course of policy.

Israelis “must ultimately decide between expanding settlements and preserving the possibility of a peaceful two state solution,” the statement said. “Proceeding with this new settlement is another step towards cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

The statement concluded with a vailed threat that “such moves will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from many of its partners, and further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the US had received public assurances from the Israeli government that contradicted the announcement to build in Samaria.

“I guess, when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well,” he said.

The Israeli foreign ministry said the units approved do not constitute a “new settlement.” It said the new housing would be built on state-owned land in an existing community and would not change its boundaries or geographic footprint. It explained that the construction is necessary to relocate Israeli residents from another area who must leave their homes due to the court order.

“Israel remains committed to a solution of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel,” the ministry said in a statement. “The real obstacle to peace is not the settlements — a final status issue that can and must be resolved in negotiations between the parties — but the persistent Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state in any boundaries.”

The Obama administration regularly condemns Israel for its presence in Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, areas Israel maintains are their legitimate heartland and state capital.

Reporting on the incident, Israeli media found it incredulous that the US focused its foreign policy efforts on 100 housing units in Israel, while there were so many important issues around the globe to address.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News