US says Israeli settlement building 'unhelpful' in surprise rebuke

US says Israeli settlement building 'unhelpful' in surprise rebuke
In a break from Trump's steadfast defence of Israel, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said building new or expanding settlements "may not be helpful" to the peace process.
2 min read
03 February, 2017
Israel has accelerated its settlement building since Trump took officer [Getty]
The White House has spoken against Israeli settlement-building in an unprecedented rebuke following a sharp escalation in construction since President Donald Trump's inauguration.

Building new Israeli settlements or expanding existing ones "may not be helpful" in securing Middle East peace, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Thursday.

"While we don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful," he added.  

The statement is a break from Trump's staunch defence of Israeli settlement building.

In the wake of a UN Security Council resolution condemning illegal settlements, Trump had been outspoken in his opposition to the move, urging Israel to "stay strong" until his inauguration. 

"[We] cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect," Trump tweeted soon after the security council resolution was passed.

The promised pro-Israeli policies of Trump were well-received by politicians from Israel's right.

Israel recently unveiled plans for 3,000 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, the fourth such announcement in the less than two weeks since Trump took office.

Critics say the constructions risk making a two-state solution impossible.

The idea of an Israeli and Palestinian state coexisting has underpinned peace efforts for decades.

Settlements in both the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem are viewed as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their own state.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is also due to express concern over settlement building during a meeting with her Israeli counterpart Binyamin Netanyahu in London on Monday.