Netanyahu on Phone with Kerry After Shiloh Blowup

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was on the phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to explain Israel’s intentions regarding the building project at Shiloh in the Shomron, which triggered American wrath on Thursday.

An official Israeli source quoted in the local media said that “Netanyahu clarified for Kerry that the construction [in Shiloh] was to provide an alternative for the Amona residents if no other solution is found.”

The explanation appeared to be in line with a Foreign Ministry statement issued late Thursday which bluntly rejected State Dept. spokesman Mark Toner’s characterization of the project as a “new settlement,” in breach of Israeli commitments.

Of the 300 homes in the project altogether, 98 would be designated for the residents of Amona, who face a court-ordered evacuation of their current homes in a nearby location by December 25. The Amona families have so far rejected all government proposals to relocate.

Besides the U.S., the European Union also condemned the Shiloh project on Friday, saying that “continued settlement expansion also calls into question Israel’s commitment towards reaching a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.”

In addition, The New York Times ran an editorial on Thursday condemning the building plan and calling on the United Nations Security Council to advance a peace agreement for Israel and the Palestinians.

“The best idea under discussion now would be to have the Security Council, in an official resolution, lay down guidelines for a peace agreement, covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states,” the paper’s editorial board said.

The editorial comes after a spate of reports about concern in Yerushalayim that President Barack Obama might back — or at least withhold the U.S. veto on — such a resolution, which Israel views as counter to its national interest.

The Security Council is scheduled to have a public debate on October 14 on Israeli policies in east Yerushalayim and Yehudah and Shomron.