David Cameron and Ed Miliband have both condemned the land grab of 1,000 acres in the West Bank by Israel as "deplorable", echoing world-wide condemnation for the action announced yesterday.
The announcement by Israel that it has appropriated the land in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem, was described yesterday as 'the biggest in 30 years' by Israeli anti-settlement campaign group Peace Now.
Around 10 Israeli families currently live on the land, the size of roughly 70 football pitches, and more permanent structures will now be put up. The settlements council said the appropriation "paves the way for the new city."
The Israeli military made the announcement Sunday in accordance with a government edict. It said the directive was made at the end of a military operation in June that searched for three Israeli teens who were abducted and killed by Hamas militants. The Hamas kidnapping and murder of the teens sparked a chain of events that led to the 50-day war.
"The goal of the murderers of those three youths [who were murdered hitch-hiking home in the West Bank in June, sparking the conflict with Hamas] was to sow fear among us, to disrupt our daily lives and to call into doubt our right to the land. Our response is to strengthen settlement," a spokesman for the settlement council said.
David Perl, head of the Gush Etzion local council, said he wanted "to congratulate the prime minister and the government of Israel on their promotion of the initiative, and the defence minister and head of the civil administration on getting the decision approved.”
The deeply controversial move has not had universal approval even within the Israeli government. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told Army Radio the timing was inappropriate, given the recent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. “Israel now needs to be recruiting the world to prevent steps being taken against it, and to work together with those moderate forces” she said.
“Anything that can turn attention toward us and arouse criticism against us hurts the very things we are trying to achieve.”
The US state department has called the move "counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, said: "The Israeli government is committing various crimes against the Palestinian people and their occupied land. The international community should hold Israel accountable as soon as possible for its crimes and raids against our people in Gaza and the ongoing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem."
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the Israeli move and called for the decision to be revoked. He told the Palestinian news agency WAFA that it "leads to deterioration in the situation."
The Israeli housing ministry said the announcement is just the first step and it will be several years before anything is built there.
The military said opponents have 45 days to appeal Sunday's decision.
Earlier Sunday, the Israeli military said a soldier wounded in fighting in the Gaza Strip had succumbed to his wounds, bringing the Israeli military's death toll in the war to 66.
The military says 20-year-old Sergeant Shachar Shalev was wounded on July 23, six days after Israeli ground forces entered the densely populated coastal strip.
Six civilians were also killed on the Israeli side, including one agricultural worker from Thailand.
More than 2,100 Palestinians, three-quarters of whom were civilians according to the United Nations, were killed during the 50-day war. Israel disputes the figures and says at least half were militants.