Foreign Policy

U.S. ‘deeply troubled’ by Israel’s legalizing 9 outposts

The expressions from officials were the first sign of outward friction between the U.S. and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government.

John Kirby speaks at a podium.

Administration officials said on Monday they were “troubled” and “concerned” by Israel’s settlement advancements over the weekend — the first sign of outward friction between the U.S. and Israel’s new far-right government.

“We are deeply troubled by Israel’s announcement that it will reportedly advance thousands of settlements and begin a process to retroactively legalize nine outposts in the West Bank that were previously illegal under Israeli law,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing on Monday. “Like previous administrations, we strongly oppose these unilateral measures, which exacerbate tensions, harm trusts between the parties, and undermine the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution.”

John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator, also said his team was “deeply concerned” regarding the settlement decision in Israel, during a White House press briefing on Monday afternoon. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his concern in a statement prior to his department’s briefing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel agreed to legalize nine settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, The Associated Press reported. This action goes against the United States’ strong opposition to “any unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions,” Price said during the State Department briefing.

The Israeli leadership under Netanyahu has faced criticism from some who say the far-right policies are racist or misogynistic. During Netanyahu’s attempt to return to power last year, after being ousted in the previous election, he tapped into far-right extremist coalitions to gain support — coalitions now represented in the new Israeli government.

The U.S. has tread lightly in addressing the new coalition government, while also keeping its ties with a historic ally. Blinken previously met with Netanyahu two weeks ago during a two-day trip.

However, the U.S. State Department’s vocal opposition should be “no surprise,” Price said.

“During his recent trip to Israel, Secretary Blinken was clear: that all parties should refrain from actions that heighten tensions and take us further away from peace,” Price said. “Israel’s decision on settlements and outposts runs directly contrary to those objectives.”

Price said the State Department was now having “intensive discussions with the parties, including Israel.” These discussions are bilateral and multilateral, he said.

“When we were there, before we were there, after we were there, last week, again today, our message on this has been clear and consistent,” Price said. “We oppose any unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions.”