“You know, there’s not only the freedom of property, but the right of every individual to live where they want, as long as they purchase the apartment legally and don’t expropriate, don’t take over, which isn’t the case here. So I just want to understand this policy. It flies in the face of American values, and it flies in the face of common sense.”
Just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded his two-hour meeting with American President Barack Obama, the US harshly condemned Israel for its plans to further develop housing projects in Jerusalem that were publicized on Wednesday.
“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated. “It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
The State Department further accused Israel of “poisoning” the atmosphere with the Palestinians and moderate Arab countries. The development of housing projects would “distance Israel from even its closest allies; poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians, but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations; and call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington late Wednesday afternoon.
Plans Include Building for Jews and Arabs
The Jerusalem Municipality announced on Wednesday that it is moving ahead with the approval of 2,600 housing units in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood in Jerusalem. The plans were initially approved in December 2012, and this announcement was regarding a new development in the process. The project still requires further authorization and approval. The plans include building for Jews as well as Arabs.
The US further criticized Israel for moving Israelis into homes in the Ir David (City of David) neighborhood in Jerusalem, known by the Arabs as Silwan, on Wednesday. Earnest said this move serves only to “escalate tensions at a moment when those tensions have already been high.”
Netanyahu Rejects US Criticism, Will Not Discriminate against Jews
Netanyahu strongly rejected the criticism, stating that Jews have a right to homes in Jerusalem just as the Arabs do, and that he would not discriminate against the Jews.
“I don’t understand this criticism, and I don’t accept this position. Arabs in Jerusalem freely buy apartments, and nobody says that is forbidden. I will also not say that Jews cannot buy property in Jerusalem. There cannot be discrimination between Jews and Arabs. This is a normal process, and I see no reason to discriminate,” he said while briefing reporters in New York.
“This isn’t a settlement,” the Israeli leader declared. “These are neighborhoods in Jerusalem. If you said to me that in some city in the United States or in Mexico, or anywhere else, Jews cannot buy apartments, there would be an uproar. You know, there’s not only the freedom of property, but the right of every individual to live where they want, as long as they purchase the apartment legally and don’t expropriate, don’t take over, which isn’t the case here. This was a free transaction. So I just want to understand this policy. It flies in the face of American values, and it flies in the face of common sense.”
Netanyahu further accused various Israeli elements of deliberately creating a political stir to sabotage his meeting with Obama, noting it was not a coincidence that the issue surfaced during his visit in the US.
Speaking to MSNBC Netanyahu said, “What is most important is to first learn the facts. We are not talking about illegal communities. These are Jewish neighborhoods.”
Building Will Continue with Force, Mayor Says
Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat seconded Netanyahu’s remarks. Not only is the building harmless, but it is necessary for the city, he stated.
“I say this firmly and clearly: building in Jerusalem is not poisonous and harmful – rather, it is essential, important and will continue with full force,” Barkat declared. “I will not freeze construction for anyone in Israel’s capital. Discrimination based on religion, race or gender is illegal in the United States and in any other civilized country; 2,600 apartments in Givat HaMatos that we approved two years ago will enable more young people from all sectors and religions to live in Jerusalem and build their future here, thereby strengthening the capital of Israel. We will not apologize for that. “
Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel