New Settlements Approved Same Day as Obama-Netanyahu Meeting
March 24, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday, to give a defiant speech before the the pro-Israel group AIPAC. “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital,” he declared. His remarks came just two-weeks after Vice President Biden’s peace mission to the Middle East became unraveled by Israel’s announcement of new housing units in disputed East Jerusalem on the eve of his trip. The Obama administration viewed the move as an “insult.” Now, it’s happened again. On the same day that Netanyahu met with President Obama, the Israeli government announced the approval of new housing units in the controversial area of East Jerusalem. The Israelis deny that the timing of the announcement was political.
According to the report in the LA Times:
“The 20-unit project, funded by U.S. businessman Irving Moskowitz, cleared its chief planning hurdles in July but received the final go-ahead March 18, when the developer paid project fees to the city, officials said. Some speculated that the timing of the fee payment and the subsequent announcement to Israeli media — which occurred Tuesday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to meet President Obama at the White House — seemed designed to exploit recent U.S.-Israeli tensions over Jewish expansion in East Jerusalem. City officials denied any political motivations.”
‘”This process is apolitical and professional,” said Stephan Miller, spokesman for Jerusalem’s mayor.”
The housing project will be built on the site of the former Shepherd Hotel in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah.
On the eve of Biden’s trip to the Middle East, Israeli officials announced the construction of 1,600 units of housing in the disputed area of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem. The Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are working towards extracting concessions from Israel, to make progress towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians and the creation of an eventual two-state solution in the region.
The announcement of the new housing units was an unwelcome distraction to an already soured relationship between the two countries of late. After the talks concluded, no photos or public remarks about the meeting were released, signaling that an agreement for the resumption of peace talks was not reached.
And a senior U.S. official told POLITICO Tuesday evening, “This is exactly what we expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to get control of.” “The current drip-drip-drip of projects in East Jerusalem impedes progress.”