Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s spokesman said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to build across the occupied West Bank was a “challenge” to Donald Trump’s efforts to restart peace talks.
Netanyahu told Israeli settlers Tuesday he would keep building across the West Bank, while Israeli authorities also advanced plans for some 1,500 settlement homes in the Palestinian territory.
The US president has called on Netanyahu to hold back on settlement building as he seeks ways to relaunch peace efforts with the Palestinians, but the Israeli leader also faces political pressure from the powerful settler movement.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Abbas, said in a statement that Netanyahu’s speech and the new building plans “represent a challenge to the American administration.”
“It is a challenge to (Trump’s) efforts to create an appropriate atmosphere for a serious political process, and a blatant challenge to the international community as a whole,” the statement added.
The homes advanced on Wednesday include those for the first new official settlement in some 25 years, the Peace Now NGO said.
Plans for a further 1,000 homes could be advanced on Wednesday, the NGO said.
Settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem are illegal under international law and are seen as one of the greatest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has said he still supports a two-state solution, but peace advocates allege his actions show otherwise.
Abu Rudeina added that the Israeli leader’s statements “make it clear to the international community yet again that Israel is still putting up obstacles and destroying the chances of resuming the peace process.”
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