Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon GPO
US President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House in Washington DC, USA, August 27, 2021.

The Biden administration expressed “deep concern” over Israel’s announced plans to market 1,300 housing units and approve the construction of 3,144 units for Israelis and 1,303 units for Arabs in Judea and Samaria.

The Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration (HPC) was supposed to convene on Wednesday to approve the units for Israelis, and on Monday to approve the units for Arabs in Area C, under full Israeli control. Due to a strike, the meeting was postponed to Thursday.

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The government announced on Sunday the marketing tenders for 1,355 housing units in Judea and Samaria.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, US Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that the Biden administration is “deeply concerned about the Israeli Government’s plan to advance thousands of settlement units, many of them deep in the West Bank.”

Washington is also “concerned about the publication of tenders for 1,300 settlement units in a number of West Bank settlements. We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution,” he stated.

“We have been consistent, and clear in our statements to this effect,” he underscored.

The Biden administration also views “plans for the retroactive legalization of illegal outposts as unacceptable. We continue to raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israeli officials in our private discussions” and “we are engaging with our Israeli partners at very senior levels conveying this message.”

The Biden administration messages have become “tougher” over time “consistent with what we are seeing transpire,” explained Price.

Price did not comment on the building permits for Arabs.

Tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have been mounting in recent weeks surrounding Israel’s announced construction plans in Judea and Samaria and the US’ intent to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem which will provide diplomatic services for Arabs, a move Israel strongly opposes.

American Chargé d’Affaires in Israel Michael Ratney called Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir on Tuesday and conveyed the Biden administration’s strong protest over the decision to build the housing units in Judea and Samaria.

Israeli officials estimate that the Biden administration prefers Bennett’s government, which has brought the left in Israel back to power, over Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power, and is therefore holding back on extensive pressure on Bennett and his fragile government.

However, after the budget is passed next month and Bennett’s government is consolidated, Washington’s tone, and possible actions, are expected to escalate.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.