A building project in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, whose approval angered the US administration the last time Vice President Joe Biden visited in March 2010, has continued advancing despite commitments to halt it, Peace Now said on Monday.
Peace Now’s 2010 revelation of the approval of the housing project in a Jerusalem municipal committee led to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being scolded by Biden and then-secretary of state and current Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Now the organization has distributed pictures of the project’s continued advancement in an effort to prove that Netanyahu did not keep his promise to American officials that it would be stopped.
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), who was meeting with Netanyahu when the news about Ramat Shlomo broke, said the prime minister told him he did not even know where the neighborhood was.
“Where the hell is Ramat Shlomo?” Netanyahu innocently asked Shai, just before Clinton accused him of building the project on purpose to anger President Barack Obama.
Shai said on Monday that he hoped neither the Right nor Left were planning provocations that could harm this Biden visit since relations with the US were too important to harm for an unnecessary publicity stunt.
Netanyahu asked the heads of the Knesset’s Land of Israel Caucus to delay a meeting on Monday that pushed for construction in Ma’aleh Adumim until after the Biden visit. Caucus head Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) refused.
“There’s always an excuse, and it’s never a good time to build, but this is exactly the right time,” Smotrich said. “We expect the prime minister to tell Biden that Israel must always build in Ma’aleh Adumim.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman told his faction he feared Biden’s visit could initiate months of pressure on the prime minister to make diplomatic concessions, including initiatives at the UN and international diplomatic conferences.
“Netanyahu is laying the groundwork for diplomatic surrender,” Liberman warned. “He will make significant concessions.”
Meretz faction chairman Ilan Gilon said he hoped Liberman was right.
“We hope Netanyahu will surrender,” he said. “I hope he cuts the bullshit and stops surrendering to the hilltop youth [activists in Judea and Samaria]. It is more Zionist to surrender to Biden than to them.”
“Netanyahu told Biden it would not be built,” said Peace Now leader Yariv Openheimer.
“It’s the government that builds that harms the relations, not us. We just report about the reality, which is the right of the public to know.”
In 2010, Clinton accused Netanyahu of personally advancing the project in order to humiliate Biden.