The United States has rebuked Israel for the Jewish nation's plans to accelerate building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank in the face of mounting international concern.
"This significant expansion of the settlement activity poses a serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
In the latest approvals, an Israeli military planning committee revealed plans for 463 housing units in various settlements in the West Bank, according to the Israeli news site Haaretz and the settlement watchdog group Peace Now.
Of those, 51 housing units will be newly built, while 178 units built without permits in one settlement in the 1980s received retroactive approval, Haaretz reported.
"We are particularly troubled by a policy of retroactively approving illegal outposts and unauthorized settlements,'' Earnest said. "I think we have been quite unambiguous about the concerns we have on this issue.''
Earlier in the week, U.N. Mideast envoy Nicolay Mladenov told the United Nations Security Council that settlement expansion by the Israelis is among the biggest obstacles to peace with the Palestinians.
But Israel rejected his concerns. David Keyes, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the comments "distort history."
"Jews have been in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for thousands of years, and their presence there is not an obstacle to peace," Keyes said in a statement, using the biblical names for the West Bank.
The United States has urged Israel and the Palestinians to "take meaningful steps" to build trust, but Israel has instead promoted the building of thousands of new settlement homes.