Reporters tell State Dept. to use leverage on Israel, stop demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.
Esra Kaymak Avcı - WASHINGTON (AA) – The State Department was questioned by reporters Wednesday for not going beyond condemning and taking proper action against Israel's illegal settlement activities in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.
A reporter asked the State Department spokesman Mark Toner what the U.S. would do to "make good on its expression of displeasure" over Israel's illegal settlement activities, rather than expressing concerns or only condemning the action.
"We don't hesitate to speak to our concerns about Israel's behavior when we believe it is counter productive to our goal," Toner said, referring to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
"We're forthright and we're transparent about our concerns when they arise and certainly, you know, that speaks to ongoing settlement activity."
According to the spokesman, the U.S. will continue to make those concerns clear to the Israeli authorities, diplomatically and publicly, asking them to respect the human rights of the Palestinian people.
However, Toner's answer did not satisfy the reporter and he followed up saying the U.S. had a great deal of leverage with Israel it could use. The reporter also claimed that a large amount of the U.S. proposed $40 billion military aid package to Israel would be used for expanding these settlements.
"You've got to stop doing this," the reporter said. "I mean, not always say ‘we disapprove, we condemn’ and so on."
Looking at the floor while listening to the reporter's comments and question, Toner said diplomatic relations required multiple levels and channels of engagement, which included agreements and disagreements of two countries.
International law view the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Israeli settlement building on the land to be illegal.
The latest spate of demolitions in July brought the total number of Palestinians to be displaced in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to 740 -- including 384 children -- since the beginning of the year, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
Being questioned by another reporter on the fact that five U.S. citizens of Arab origin were detained and then expelled at the entry to Israel, Toner said the U.S. sought equal treatment and freedom to travel for all Americans regardless of their ethnic origin.
"The U.S. government remains concerned about unequal treatment that some Arab-Americans receive at Israel's borders and checkpoints," he said, adding the U.S. would look into the incident.
The State Department had expressed concerns over several denials of Palestinian-Americans in the previous years. However, many Palestinian nationals or dual nationals continue to be denied entry to Israel via Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.