White House Condemns Building in East Jerusalem

Published: March 9th 2010
in News >> Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden
Pic: GPO



Israel’s Interior Ministry decided on Tuesday to approve the construction of 1,600 housing in east Jerusalem. The US was quick to condemn the decision.




Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently visiting Israel, was quoted in Ynet as saying: "I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel."




Biden’s statement continued by saying: "We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict.




"The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.




"Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, 'we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks'."




White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also addressed the situation, and said that President Obama's position on the settlements is known by both the Israelis and the Palestinians.




Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had met with Biden twice on Tuesday, was taken by surprise following the unexpected announcement. Ynet reported that the announcement caused a great embarrassment, and that although Interior Minister Eli Yishai claimed the decision’s timing was coincidental, Netanyahu had requested to be informed about construction permits in Jerusalem and in the West Bank. A close source to Netanyahu told Ynet that the Prime Minister had assured Biden the timing was indeed coincidental, and added that while Netanyahu is not ashamed of the construction in Jerusalem, "he certainly is not interested in creating a political debacle. It is important to create a good atmosphere, and avoid disagreements with Washington – especially during the vice president's important visit."




In response to the decision to build in east Jerusalem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa about what he called "the provocative and predetermined Israeli escalation, following the Palestinian authority's decision to renew the negotiations," Ynet quoted.




Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was quoted in Haaretz as saying following the announcement: "It is apparent that the Israeli government does not want negotiations, nor does it want peace. The American administration must respond to this provocation with effective measures."

Related articles: (Ramat Shlomo, Joe Biden, Netanyahu, peace process, expansion)

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