J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami.
(photo credit: COURTESY J STREET)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s characterization of US criticism of new Israeli housing plans in east Jerusalem as being antithetical to American values was a case of “chutzpa” and “an outrageous perversion of the truth,” according to J Street.
In a statement released on Monday, the avowedly left-wing American Jewish lobby, which has pressured the Obama administration to do more to advance the creation of a Palestinian state, called on the premier to retract the statement.
“J Street calls on Mr. Netanyahu to apologize and to withdraw his remarks,” the organization said. “The statement ignores the fact that for the 47 years of the occupation, successive Israeli governments have built dozens of settlements and related infrastructure on expropriated land while exploiting Palestinian resources, including water and agricultural land.”
“It also ignores the fact that today over 40 percent of the West Bank is zoned for the exclusive use of settlers. Palestinians are not allowed to live in Israeli settlements or drive on Israeli-only roads connecting these settlements through ‘security zones’ surrounding the settlements.”
“For a foreign leader to characterize the principled opposition to settlements of every US administration since 1967 – the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama – as being against American values gives new meaning to the word ‘chutzpa’,” according to J Street.
In an interview aired Sunday with Bob Schieffer on CBS's “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu was asked about the harsh US criticism of the Givat Hamatos housing plan – which the prime minister stressed was a development meant for both Jews and Arabs – and allowing Jews to move into the overwhelmingly Arab neighborhood of Silwan.
“I think condemning it is wrong,” he said. “And I’m, frankly, baffled. I think it’s not the American way.”
At his daily briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: "It did seem odd for him to try to defend the actions of his government by saying our response did not reflect American values."
Plans are under way to build 2,610 new homes in Givat Hamatos, a diplomatically sensitive area of southeast Jerusalem over the Green Line, which Palestinians believe should be part of their future state.
Over the weekend, the European Union strongly condemned the decision to move forward with the construction plan, calling on Israel to retract its moves. The EU also warned that Israel’s ties with the union are dependent on its commitment to a two-state solution.