JERUSALEM, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday to persuade Israel to reverse a decision to claim West Bank territory for housing.
The call came after an official request by the United States to halt the claim of 1,000 acres of disputed territory near Jerusalem. There has been criticism of the plan, both internationally and within Netanyahu's cabinet. The announcement Sunday is interpreted by Israeli analysts as an attempt by Netanyahu to reinforce his standing in the country's right wing, which has been critical of how he has handled the conflict in Gaza.
The growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank complicates the work of negotiators seeking a timetable for Israel's agreed-upon withdrawal from the area back to pre-1967 borders. Kerry will soon meet on the matter with Palestinian leaders, who threaten to seek a United Nations resolution calling for full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank within three years.
"We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity," a U.S. State Department official said. "This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue is counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians. We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision."