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PM Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the Obama administration’s criticism of Israel’s decision to build some 600 new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Speaking on Wednesday at a press conference in Kigali, Rwanda, during his historic four-day trip to Africa, Netanyahu was asked about Washington’s criticism of the planned construction in Jerusalem.

“With all due respect, it is neither the construction in Jerusalem nor that in Ma’aleh Adumim that make peace more remote,” Netanyahu stated. “What prevents peace, first of all, is the constant incitement against the existence of the State of Israel within any borders, and the time has come for all the nations of the world to recognize this simple truth.”

“There is also a second truth: The way to resolve conflicts is by direct negotiations,” Netanyahu declared. The Palestinians have repeatedly declared they will never again engage in direct negotiations with Israel, and have instead resorted to generating international pressure to force a resolution on Israel that would hinder its security.

On Sunday, Israel’s government approved the construction of some 600 new housing units in Ma’ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, and another 200 units in Jerusalem neighborhoods located over the so-called Green Line: Gilo, Har Homa and Ramot.

The move was coupled with a decision to approve construction of some 600 new housing units exclusively for Arabs in Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa neighborhood.

John Kirby

State Department spokesman John Kirby. (AP/Susan Walsh)

The plans were announced as a response to the recent wave of Palestinian terror attacks, which claimed the lives of Hallel Ariel, a 13-year-old girl and, Michael Mark, a father of 10.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby harshly denounced the plans and said the decision is “the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”

The move is “undermining the prospects for a two-state solution,” Kirby added.

At the press conference, Netanyahu rejected the charges and stressed that Israel is “ready at all times to hold direct negotiations without preconditions with our neighbors; however, they are not prepared to hold them with us. These are the two things that are preventing peace not a few apartments near the city of Maaleh Adumim, or several neighborhoods in Jerusalem.”

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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