Obama Indonesia 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
administration did not seek to confront Israel publicly on the issue of
plans for new building in east Jerusalem neighborhoods, a White House
official told American Jewish leaders in a conference call, website
Politico reported on Friday.
Speaking about Israeli plans to
advance 1,345 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem at
a press conference in Indonesia on Tuesday, Obama said, “This kind of
activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.” He added
that such “incremental steps can end up breaking down trust between the
Netanyahu to Obama: Jerusalem is not a settlement
'US failed to convince Netanyahu to halt construction'
answered a question put to him at the press conference, but hadn't
planned on publicly criticizing the new Israeli building, National
Security Council official Dan Shapiro said during the conference call,
according to Politico.
Obama's comments set off a barrage of statements from Israel and the US
about the east Jerusalem construction plans while Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu was on a visit to the US in an attempt to break the
impasse in the stalled peace talks.
Netanyahu responded to Obama's comments by releasing a statement on
Tuesday saying that "Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the
capital of Israel." The statement added that the government had never
agreed to freeze building in Jerusalem.
“Israel does not see any connection between the peace process and the
policy of planning and construction in Jerusalem, which has not changed
in 40 years,” the statement continued. “For the last 40 years every
Israeli government built in every part of the city. During that period,
peace agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan, and for 17 years
direct negotiations were held with the Palestinians. These are
historical facts. Construction in Jerusalem has never interfered with
the peace process.”
Later on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded
to Netanyahu's statement that east Jerusalem construction had no bearing
on the peace process.
“There clearly is a link in the sense that it is incumbent upon both
parties ... they are responsible for creating conditions for a
successful negotiation,” Crowley said. “To suggest that this kind of
announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.