Ehud Barak Calls Housing Plan Damaging

Published: March 14th 2010

Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Pic: wikimedia commons


Speaking at an event marking the approach of Passover, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was the latest public figure to harshly criticize the Israeli government’s recent announcement that it intends to construct 1,600 additional housing unite in East Jerusalem.


"The mishap that took place while the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting was unintentional, but it was, without a doubt, unnecessary and damaging," said Barak on Sunday.


The government’s decision was announced while Biden was on a visit to Israel to encourage the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The plan has been condemned by members of the Obama administration, including by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who reportedly had a tense 45-minute phone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly after the announcement.


Earlier in the day, Obama senior advisor David Axelrod denounced the planned Israeli construction in East Jerusalem as an intentional attempt to derail indirect peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians scheduled to begin soon.


During an interview on ABC’s This Week, Axelrod called Israel’s announcement of the additional 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo “an affront.”


Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the announcement as “harmful” and admitted that it “should not have happened.”


At the celebration, Barak reiterated the need for a strong relationship between Israel and the United States.


“Even though we are the ones ultimately responsible for our fate, the friendship of the United States is important to both the security and the peace of the region, and this friendship commits us to mutual respect and responsibility,” Barak said. “I am convinced that we must carry on the renewal of peace talks, and we must also invest thought and effort into it.”


Axelrod said that the announcement during Biden’s visit “was distressing to everyone who is promoting the idea of peace and security in the region.”


He added that the friendship between the U.S. and Israel remains strong but said that “for just that very reason, this was not the right way to behave.”


“That was expressed by the Secretary of State as well as the Vice President,” Axelrod said. “I am not going to discuss what diplomatic talks we've had underneath that but I think the Israelis understand clearly why we were upset and what we want moving forward.”


Commenting publicly on Sunday, Netanyahu called the incident “regrettable” but something that “occurred innocently.”


“We opened the newspapers this morning and read all kinds of commentary and assumptions regarding the crisis with the U.S. I recommend not to get carried away and to calm down,” Netanyahu told a meeting of his cabinet, Haaretz reported.


The Prime Minister has asked a committee to investigate what went wrong leading up to the announcement so that a similar event does not happen in the future.



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