The United Nation said the continued growth and construction of Israeli settlements under international law, all of Israel's West Bank settlements are illegal, since they are built within the Palestinian Territories.
In order to gain the trust of West Bank Palestinians and advance the peace process, The UN says, Israel must freeze settlement construction and abandon its attempts to reclaim the region based on historical religious claims. "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement," Obama asserted during a June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt.
Critics assert that the outposts occupy valuable land that should be reserved for a future Palestinian state. By constructing towns on (and sometimes later annexing) land in the Palestinian Territories, opponents say, Israel diminishes the region's already-limited supply of fertile soil and fresh water, which are needed for an independent Palestine.
Unless the natural growth of settlements is halted and new construction banned, the U.S.-backed goal of a two-state solution will become more elusive than ever, critics warn.
By seizing land and building settlements in the Palestinian Territories, Israel is violating international law. Acquiring land in this fashion fosters anti-Israeli sentiment among both the Palestinians and the broader international community, and hurts the prospects for a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Even some members of the Israeli political establishment have criticized the way the Netanyahu administration has responded to U.S. calls for a settlement freeze.
Throughout the summer of 2009, both the U.S. and Israel expressed great optimism that a solution could be negotiated on the issue of Israeli settlement in the near future. "We are dealing with this on all levels and we will reach an agreement with camaraderie and cooperation," maintained Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S.
Nevertheless, by early September 2009, as West Bank settlement expansion continued largely unabated, the Israeli government announced its intention to build new outposts.
Do you think Israel should be allowed to continue constructing settlements in the West Bank?