Hardliner Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed his firm commitment to war over peace by authorizing the construction of illegal housing units by settlers in the West Bank this week. The move came mere hours after taking office.
The settlements, condemned by the international community, are a major obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine. The approval of the illegal construction is seen as an escalation of the conflict and a move away from the peace process.
According to unofficial copies of a deal between Israeli political parties that was leaked to the Jerusalem Post, a professional legal team will be created on the issue, which will create a plan to "authorize buildings and neighborhoods" that were built in the West Bank.
While Netanyahu's government did approve many housing plans in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, it had so far refused large policy initiatives or shifts that would give wider approval of illegal settlements.
But in order to become elected again, Netanyahu promised to step up settlement construction in east Jerusalem, inflaming tensions in the region and openly defying the international community.
The European Union swiftly condemned the move on Saturday.
"Israel's determination to continue its settlement policy despite the urging of the international community not only threatens the viability of the two state solution but also seriously calls into question its commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians," the EU said in an official statement.
"Settlements are illegal under international law" it added.
In a briefing Thursday at the US State Department, spokesman Jeff Rathke called the decision "disappointing" and "damaging".
"This is a disappointing development, and we’re concerned about it just as a new Israeli government has been announced," he said. "Moving forward with construction of housing units in east Jerusalem is damaging."
The U.S. has been a vocal critic of Israel's recent hard-line policies, which has led to strained relations between the two countries. John Kerry visited Israel this week to repair the previously close relationship.