FM Lieberman: US freeze demand is 'odd'

Erekat: Netanyahu's rejection of US demands to cease construction hampering peace negotiations.

Lieberman ahhhh 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Lieberman ahhhh 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
News of the American demand to freeze construction in an east Jerusalem housing complex and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's complete rejection of such a demand stirred uproar across Israel's political spectrum on Sunday. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the US demand was "odd." "Thousands of Arab families build houses in Jerusalem, in the neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov and French Hill, and I've never heard any comment on the matter from the United States or Europe," Lieberman said. "I'm trying to put this delicately: It would be very strange if Jews were discriminated against in Jerusalem of all places, especially in light of the fact that it is not an isolated site; this is the heart of the city, very close to the Government Compound and Israel Police Headquarters." Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said, "A demand to cease construction in a neighborhood situated only several meters from the Hebrew University proves how dangerous it is to be dragged into a debate on settlement freeze, which will lead us to a total demand to freeze our normal lives throughout the entire State of Israel." Likud MK Ophir Akunis said that "there is a broad consensus among the Israeli public regarding the unity of Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. All of the world's countries must understand that any attempt to harm Jerusalem's unity and Israel's sovereignty will be rejected outright." Meretz chairman Haim Oron, however, backed the US demand. Meretz chairman Haim Oron on Sunday backed a US demand that Israel halt construction of a housing project in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. "Anyone deluding himself to the effect that east Jerusalem is not part of the territories and that Israel can continue to act in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as if there is no international community, receives a slap from time to time," Oron said. "Construction in the heart of Arab neighborhoods is not an Israeli interest but rather a real estate interest and the interest of those who wish to ignite the area. Israel must arrive at understandings with the United States, say yes to Obama and resume the peace process." Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian Authority's negotiation team, said that Netanyahu was aware that there would be no peace with the Palestinians without east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. "If the Israeli prime minister continues with settlement activities, he will undermine efforts to revive the peace process," Erekat said. Netanyahu, he told Army Radio, would have to tell the Israeli people "what it needs to hear and not what it wants to hear." A spokesman for the US Embassy had no immediate comment.