Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on Face the Nation over the weekend to condemn the US government’s position on Israeli settlements. The US — along with the international community — asserts that Israel’s expansion of settlements into Palestinian territory is an illegal land grab.
“I was baffled by this statement, because it doesn’t reflect American values. What we’re being criticized for is that some Jewish residents of Jerusalem bought apartments legally from Arabs in a predominantly Arab neighborhood, and this is seen as a terrible thing,” Netanyahu said.
According to Netanyahu, who leads the right-wing Likud Party, Washington’s criticism was “not the American way.”
“It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” he said. “The idea that we’d have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it’s anti-peace.”
The White House rejected the criticism as “odd” considering the United States’ unwavering provision of direct military aid to Israel and political support that has continued despite withering international criticism of Netanyahu’s war policies.
“The fact is, American policy has been clear and unchanged under several administrations, both Democrat and Republican,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“We oppose any unilateral actions that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. These can only be legitimately determined through direct negotiations through the parties that this president has worked hard to try to facilitate,” Earnest continued.
Israel has expanded its reach into Palestinian territories over the past decade, annexing land that the US and the United Nations do not recognize as legal under international law. France, Great Britain, the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States have all condemned the settlements and their expansion over time.
The number of officially recognized settlements now stands at over 120 across the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The population of settlements has nearly doubled over the past decade. It is estimated that over 700,000 Israelis are now living in settlements on Palestinian land with one Israeli politician estimating that it could exceed one million by 2016.
The influx vastly exceeds Israel’s natural population growth rate. According to the Times of Israel, annual settlement growth is more than twice that of Israel’s nationwide growth rate.