WASHINGTON The United States on Tuesday took the unusual step of publicly criticizing Israel for plans to appropriate land in the occupied West Bank and calling for it to reverse the decision.
Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared "state land, on the instructions of the political echelon" by the military-run Civil Administration on Sunday.
"We are deeply concerned about the declaration of a large area as 'state land' to be used for expanded settlement building," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that echoed comments by an unnamed U.S. official on Sunday. "We call on the Government of Israel to reverse this decision."
"We are also very concerned by reports that new settlement and East Jerusalem construction or planning announcements may be issued at any time, including for the sensitive area of (Givat HaMatos) in East Jerusalem," Psaki added.
"These steps are contrary to Israel's stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they proceed," she said.
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)