‘Troubling message’

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Washington’s deep concerns over an Israeli plan to build 2600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem.

Mr Obama raised the development in face-to-face talks in the Oval Office on Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“The United States is deeply concerned by reports the Israeli Government has moved forward” with planning for settlements in a “sensitive area” of east Jerusalem, Mr Earnest said.

Mr Earnest warned the project could distance Israel from its “closest” allies and that Israel would send a “very troubling message” by following through with it.

Earlier, a watchdog group said Israel was to press ahead with the construction of 2610 settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem.

The housing units, which have been slated for construction since 2012 in the neighbourhood of Givat Hamatos, were given final approval last week, Peace Now said in a statement.