Just hours after a meeting at the White House between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that was conducted in a remarkably friendly atmosphere complete with mutual assurances of support and appreciation, the State Department openly called the latter’s commitment to peace into question.
Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said reports that Israel had moved forward with plans for new housing in east Yerushalayim would send out a “troubling message.”
“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister (Binyamin) Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations,” Psaki told reporters.
In addition, it would “call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement,” she said.
Plans are under way to build 2,610 new homes in Givat Hamatos. The Yerushalayim Municipality approved the project in December 2012 but waited almost two years, until Wednesday, September 24, to place news of the approval in a local paper, according to Peace Now.
But construction can occur only after the municipality publishes tenders for the project, which is located near the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa, situated outside the 1967 lines.
The municipality defended the project, half of which is designed for Jewish residents of the city and half for Arabs. A spokesman for the city also noted that the plan was not a new one and that announcement of the approval was simply a “technical” step.