Obama administration chides Israel over settlement construction plans

The Obama administration chided Israel Monday over its push for new settlement construction in territories the Palestinians claim for a future state, using particularly tough language in urging its top Mideast ally to "reconsider." 

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. opposes the "unilateral actions" and warned they could "complicate efforts" to resume direct peace talks. 

"We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint, as these actions are counterproductive," Carney said. A State Department official called them "especially damaging." 

The U.S. also previously opposed the unilateral move by the Palestinians to seek statehood recognition before the United Nations. 

Israel on Friday announced that it would move ahead on plans to build 3,000 settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem on territory the Palestinians claim to punish the Palestinians for winning the U.N. recognition. It also said it would begin planning work in E1, where construction would essentially end hopes for an eventual Palestinian state to be contiguous. 

Building in E1 would sever the link between the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim for a future capital. It would also cut off the northern part of the West Bank from its southern flank. 

Israel fiercely objected to the U.N. upgrade, saying Palestinian statehood could only come from direct negotiations and unilateral moves would harm that prospect. 

The State Department, though, said the settlement construction plans are "especially damaging" to prospects for a resumption in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and run counter to longstanding U.S. policy. 

"The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations," spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. "This includes building in the E1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution." 

The Palestinians say construction in that territory would kill any hope for establishing a viable state of Palestine. Successive U.S. governments have agreed, and under intense American pressure, Israel has avoided building settlements in the area. It has, however, developed roads and infrastructure and built a police station. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.