Palestinians aspire to form a nation of their own in the West Bank, which Israel conquered in 1967. Israel's development of the land for its own purposes -- mainly building of housing for Israelis -- is regularly denounced, and the United States was critical of the latest appropriation of land Sunday, calling it "counterproductive" to peace efforts.
"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," the official said.
Israel claimed the area, known as Gevaot, in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem, in an announcement published Sunday. Its settlement actions have been criticized by the international community and are regarded as an obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state.