We have noted the increased assertiveness of Israel in its public pronouncements since the November 2 election. We pointed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement to Vice President Biden about the need for a more assertive policy towards Iran and to the announcement, while Netanyahu is in the United States, of the advanced planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem.
The State Department reacted to the latter development by stating it is “deeply disappointed” with Israel’s announcement. Spokesman P.J. Crowley sniffed that “it is counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties,” and that he “expect[s] this will be a topic of discussion when the secretary meets with the prime minister on Thursday.”
Netanyahu, through a spokesperson, fired back as follows:
Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. Israel has never accepted upon itself restrictions of any kind on construction in Jerusalem, which has approximately 800,000 residents, including during the ten months in which construction was suspended in Judea and Samaria.
Israel sees no connection between the diplomatic process and planning and building policy in Jerusalem, which has not changed in 40 years. All Israeli governments in the past 40 years have built in all parts of the city. During this period, peace agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan, and for 17 years, diplomatic negotiations have been conducted with the Palestinians. These are historical facts. Construction in Jerusalem has never hindered the peace process.
The disagreements with the US over Jerusalem are well-known. They are not new and have continued for 40 years. We hope to overcome them and continue to advance the diplomatic negotiations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking forward to his planned Thursday meeting with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in order to advance the peace talks.
I don’t know whether either party is actually looking forward to the meeting, but I’m looking forward to the fact that it likely will be less one-sided than previous discussions between Netanyahu and the Obama administration.