White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says Israel's decision to issue tenders for new settlements could undermine peace efforts. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The White House has deep concerns about Israel's decision to issue tenders for the construction of 450 new housing units in occupied Palestinian territory, a spokesman said Friday (January 30). The move could undermine efforts to achieve peace in the region, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a daily briefing. Israel published tenders for the construction of 450 new housing units in occupied Palestinian territory, a move that critics denounced as a political gesture ahead of a March general election. Ariel Rosenberg, spokesman for Israel's Housing Ministry, said the government was simply re-marketing tenders that had failed to sell when they were initially offered last year. Israel goes to the polls on March 17, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking a fourth term in office. A number of groups, including Netanyahu's own Likud party, are battling to secure pro-settler votes at the ballot. The tenders envisage construction in a number of locations, including near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, and several enclaves in the highly sensitive Jerusalem area. The United States, regularly condemns Israeli settlement expansion, saying it threatens the chances of securing a peace deal with the Palestinians.