Israel continues to make moves that put actual peace with Palestine further out of reach, as the U.S. and the world community condemns a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move forward with the construction of more settlements in Palestinian territory in Jerusalem.
The anger of U.S. officials at Netanyahu’s move—seen by many as an attempt to pander to his country’s right-wing in advance of elections next month—was reflected in unusually blunt criticism coming from the State Department, basically accusing Israel of hypocrisy.
“We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. “These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.”
In addition to the criticism from the U.S., the European Union members of the UN Security Council—Britain, France, Germany and Portugal –were in the process of issuing a joint statement to condemn Israel’s decision to build 1,500 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem, located beyond the Green Line.
There was also criticism of the decision by many forces within Israel, such as the labor party. But Netanyahu was dismissive of the criticisms while on a visit to the northern city of Acre.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel and we will continue to build in it,” he said. “The unity of Jerusalem is something that reflects a wide national agreement.”
But an official in Netanyahu’s office said on Monday that the decision wasn’t new construction, but was rather a new stage in an existing project.
“These are not new homes,” the official said. “The intention to build them was publicized years ago, and what happened today was just a discussion on objections to the plan. This is just another planning stage, not the beginning of construction.”