The decision comes a day after a vote at the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians’ status at the UN to that of non-member observer state. The US said the expansion plan was counterproductive and would make it harder to resume peace talks.
“We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said. Earlier Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an end to settlement building and a return to peace talks.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the new units would be built between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
Plans to build settlements in the area, known as E1, are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say the development will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. The move is a first indication of Israeli anger, less than 24 hours after the vote on Palestinian status was held at the UN, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem reports.
The Palestinians may well have been expecting this – or something like it – but it is a reminder that the gulf between the two on the settlement issue remains huge, our correspondent adds. “It is an act of Israeli aggression against a state, and the world needs to take up its responsibilities,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told the AFP news agency.
Earlier this month, a paper by the Israeli foreign ministry described the Palestinians’ pushing for the vote as “crossing a red line that will require the harshest Israeli response”. About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.