JERUSALEM — The US Embassy in Tel Aviv said yesterday it was “deeply concerned’’ by Israel’s plans to build hundreds of new homes in the West Bank after a deadly attack on a settler family, calling Israeli settlements “illegitimate’’ and an obstacle to peacemaking.
While agreeing with the US criticism, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reached out to the Israeli public, granting a rare interview to state-run Israel Radio and denouncing the weekend attack in the settlement of Itamar as “despicable, immoral, and inhuman.’’
Abbas rejected the Israeli charge that his government was indirectly to blame, and Israel’s prime minister said his denunciation was not enough.
While the country was still reeling from the gruesome attack, in which two parents and three young children were fatally stabbed as they slept, the Israeli government announced Sunday that it had approved the construction of between 400 and 500 new homes in major West Bank settlement blocs.
“They murder, we build,’’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday during a condolence call to the grieving family. Palestinian militants are presumed to have carried out the assault.
The construction plans infuriated Palestinians, and together with the attack, drove prospects for renewed peacemaking further out of reach. A Netanyahu aide said the Israeli government informed the United States — which has been toiling with little success to break the negotiations deadlock — of the decision.
Just last month, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction. The United States said it agreed with the wider world about the illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, but that it thought Israelis and Palestinians should resolve key conflicts between them and that the council wasn’t the proper venue for the dispute. The council’s 14 other members voted in favor of the resolution.
A senior Israeli official responded to the United States’ criticism by reasserting Israel’s expectation that the major settlement blocs, where most of the 300,000 West Bank settlers live, will remain in Israeli hands under any final peace accord.