US expresses 'unequivocal' opposition to new east Jerusalem housing plans

PA also condemns advanced plans for 500 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.

A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in Jerusalem (photo credit: REUTERS)
A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Washington condemned on Monday the preliminary approval of 500 homes beyond the pre-1967 lines in Jerusalem.
The construction announcement came as a Palestinian delegation led by PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat was in Washington to discuss the frozen peace process with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We continue to engage at the highest level with the Israeli government to make our position absolutely clear – that we view settlement activity as illegitimate and that we unequivocally oppose unilateral steps that prejudge the future of Jerusalem,” said Edgar Vasquez, a spokesman for the State Department.
Washington has issued no fewer than three condemnations of construction activity approved by Jerusalem in the past month.
Vasquez issued his remarks hours after the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee gave preliminary approval to the construction of 500 homes in Jerusalem’s Jewish Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
The homes make up the bulk of the 660 units in Ramat Shlomo that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advanced last week along with 400 homes in the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa, which is also located over the Green Line.
In response, Erekat on Monday urged the US and EU to support the Palestinian Authority’s plan to seek a UN Security Council resolution that sets a November 2016 timetable for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Erekat said he planned to express his outrage to Kerry over the Ramat Shlomo construction plan. Erekat planned to tell Kerry that this decision endangers the two-state solution and is a slap in the face of the US administration.
The US and EU support for the Palestinian statehood bid at the Security Council would salvage the two-state solution, Erekat said. He also called for international recognition of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines.
“The international community must realize that statements alone will not stop Israeli settlements, protect the Palestinian people, or save the two-state solution,” he said.
“The international community has the responsibility to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing violations of international law,” Erekat said, adding that “the international community must support our right to access international treaties and organizations, including the Rome Statute.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman rejected criticism of the Jerusalem building, noting that Israel showed its committed to peace by signing two peace agreements – one with Egypt and one with Jordan.
In 2005, he said, Israel also evacuated 21 settlements from Gaza and four from northern Samaria.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the visiting Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard in Jerusalem on Monday, Liberman called on the international community not to support Palestinian unilateral moves for statehood recognition, or an imposed withdrawal deadline through a UN Security Council resolutions.
“Any unilateral steps would be very, very counter productive. It is impossible to impose peace, it is possible to create peace. What we need is readiness from the other side to take responsibility and to take real tough steps,” he said.
Liberman also urged Europe to stop its hypocritical treatment of Israel.
In Washington, Vasquez said that, ”It is unfortunate that after the unequivocal and unanimous position last week of the international community opposing construction in east Jerusalem, at this sensitive time the Israeli authorities chose to move forward.”
Speaking with reporters on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated the administration’s disappointment in the move, questioning Israel’s current interest in resuming the peace process with the Palestinians so long as they continue to proceed with housing activity.
Psaki denied media reports that the US was planning to unveil a new framework to restart the peace talks, which have been frozen since April, suggesting the Israeli government was not prepared for such a move.
“There are no current plans to introduce a peace plan,” she said. “If we felt it would be productive, we would do it. “ “Obviously, if they were going to restart a peace negotiation, we would be seeing actions,” Psaki said.
With respect to the Jerusalem housing announcement, she said, “Actions like this are contrary to that objective.”
In addition to meeting with Erekat, Psaki said that Kerry had also spoken by phone with Netanyahu over the weekend, but noted that the secretary of state and the prime minister spoke every couple of days.
The building announcement came just as violence in Jerusalem, sparked by the attempted assassination of right wing activist Yehudah Glick last Wednesday, had begun to calm down.
On Monday morning a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida, reported Netanyahu met secretly with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Saturday amid recent tensions between Jordan and Israel over violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and access to the site.
Netanyahu and Abdullah agreed to increase cooperation in order to calm tensions at the site, according to the report. The Prime Minister’s Office on Monday declined to comment on the report.