Israeli municipal authorities approved on Monday with a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem. Citing concern over Israel's international image, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had persuaded Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to delay the King's Garden project on hold in March.
According to Reuters, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Washington was concerned about the project, though he said it was a preliminary step being taken by the Jerusalem municipality and not the Israeli government. "We've had a number of conversations with the government of Israel about it," Crowley said.
"This would appear to be the kind of action that undermines trust and ... adds to the risk of violence, he said, adding that housing and other projects in "the occupied areas of Jerusalem" should be decided in talks between the two sides.
Netanyahu's office said later in a statement the plan was "extremely preliminary" and still faced a long process and opposition before it could receive final approval.
Palestinian leaders have described the project as another attempt by Israel to cement its claim to all of Jerusalem. "This is a municipality of colonisation," said Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority-appointed governor of Jerusalem. "You cannot claim to be building 'gardens' while you are depriving people of a house to live in."