Image copyright EPA Image caption Donald Trump faced global outrage after recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
The US is considering plans for thousands of new homes in the occupied West Bank, just days after President Donald Trump recognised the Israeli capital as Jerusalem.
Trump drew global condemnation for making the announcement, and the controversial US embassy was only opened in Jerusalem last month.
The Israeli government claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, but most countries see the city as occupied.
The UK, US and others have condemned the new construction plans, as does the EU.
EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Israel’s announcement was “counterproductive” for peace efforts in the region.
And the UK described it as “provocative”.
In a press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US remained committed to the two-state solution – the principle for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This means that a Palestinian state will be established in territory that is secure and contiguous with Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Building is under way at the New Talpiot settlement
However, Palestinian sources say this is not much different from the status quo, after Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The news of the planned construction emerged late on Wednesday, and comes a day after Netanyahu made a surprise visit to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where thousands of settlers have moved into homes illegally confiscated from Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is behind the new settlement plans, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported, citing unnamed senior officials.
It said the housing would be provided in the villages of Musrara, Maale Adumim, At Zeitun and Gilo.
Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, confirmed there were proposals for 3,000 new homes but denied the reports were being pushed by the prime minister.
Abbas has warned that the world must take a tougher line with Israel over the decisions made in recent weeks, particularly the decision to open the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Earlier this month, Germany joined France and Italy in condemning the US decision.
Shortly afterwards, the EU issued a joint statement calling on all sides “to focus on delivering the state of Palestine as a viable independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
In the Israeli side of occupied East Jerusalem, the plan for the new homes, which began three years ago, remains partly secret.
In a letter to the Israeli parliament, the ministry of strategic affairs suggested there would be 2,350 homes in Gilo alone, using data provided by the town planning committee.
Tel Aviv and Ramallah have threatened legal action if the new homes proceed, as they fear large-scale construction of settlements will not be allowed under the terms of the Oslo peace process signed in 1993.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier appeared to compare the Palestinian Authority to ‘child molesters’
In 2004, the two sides agreed that the settlers in those areas must either evacuate – and Israel took the right to revoke permits for construction – or leave voluntarily.
The evacuations did not go ahead then, but in the settlement of Sheikh Jarrah, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, around 2,500 settlers remain.
The United Nations has condemned the decision to set up the new settlement.
UN mediator for Middle East peace Nickolay Mladenov said on Thursday he hoped this was the last step in the demolition of two major models of Israeli settlement.
He also expressed deep concern that following the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem – which has exacerbated tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians – there had been an increase in settlements.
The opening of the US embassy was seen as provocative by Palestinians, who see East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future state.
Thousands of Palestinian protesters gathered in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber on Wednesday to condemn the US move.
Many of the demonstrators threw stones at Israeli troops, but no reports of clashes in the area so far.
In the north of the West Bank, Israeli police and Palestinian protesters clashed briefly during the funeral of 22-year-old Sharif Jabareen in Nablus.
Palestinians accused Israel of using excessive force, hitting Jabareen with rocks and plastic pellets in front of journalists.