'It was an unintentional mistake'

Barak says approval of J'lem plan during Biden visit was "undoubtedly superfluous and dangerous."

March 14, 2010 10:23
3 minute read.
US Vice President Joe Biden meets with Defense Min

biden barak 311. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)


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Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday evening said that the approval of 1,600 new housing units in east Jerusalem during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel was "not intentional," but stressed that it was an "undoubtedly superfluous and dangerous" move, and that it was now necessary to work to decrease the tension with the White House.

"The technical mistake during Biden's visit was not intentional but it was undoubtedly superfluous and dangerous," Barak said."But our connection with the American people and our relationship of respect with the American administration and the president are an important component of Israel's security and foreign relations."

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The defense minister went on to say that, "While we are ultimately responsible for our fate, our friendship with the US is important for security and for the chance to calm down the region and this friendship requires us to behave with mutual respect and responsibility. I am convinced that we must continue working to decrease tension and to immediately restart the diplomatic process and we will invest our time and effort for that purpose."

Barak's remarks came hours after David Axelrod, US President Barack Obama's chief political adviser, said on Sunday that the Interior Ministry's decision to approve the new Ramat Shlomo housing units during Biden's visit was both an "affront" and an "insult."

The move undermines the fragile effort to bring peace to the troubled region, Axelrod told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, adding that the timing of the announcement was "very destructive."

Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred to US and European condemnation of Israel’s announcement, saying in the cabinet meeting that the incident was “regrettable and should not have taken place.”

Netanyahu said, however, that the announcement was made with no ill will. “We have appointed a team of CEOs to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again; this should suffice and there’s no need to say anything more.”

“We opened the papers today and read analyses and assessments and I suggest we relax and don’t get carried away,” Netanyahu said. “We are dealing with this issue seriously.”

In related news, Netanyahu on Sunday called Likud MK Danny Danon and asked him to delay a party central committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, where the Likud was expected to vote on a proposal to end the construction freeze in September and start building in the West Bank.

Netanyahu said that he was making the request because of the sensitivity of the topic and his upcoming visit to the United States. Danon was considering Netanyahu’s request.

MK Danon obtained the necessary signatures of Likud Central Committee members to force a meeting of the committee on Netanyahu.  The meeting was also supposed to be a pre-Passover toast, which Netanyahu always does for Likud activists

While Biden accepted Netanyahu’s apology on Thursday, the White House did not relent, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling to scold Netanyahu over the phone for 43 minutes on Friday and a spokesman for Obama calling Netanyahu’s conduct “dangerous.”

The Europeans and the so-called Mideast Quartet joined in condemnation.

Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief of the EU, called on Netanyahu to show his leadership, saying that a peace deal was “necessary.”
The Quartet, comprised of Russia, the EU, the US and the UN, issued a statement where it “condemns” Israel’s decision to advance housing plans. The statement urged both Israel and the Palestinians to avoid making unilateral moves.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report

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