Peres blames Netanyahu for breaching Jerusalem status quo
President reportedly told PM diplomatic row with U.S. could be resolved if Israel ends E. J'lem building.
President Shimon Peres believes the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has violated the accepted status quo on building in East Jerusalem by allowing construction for Jews in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in the city.
Peres reportedly told the prime minister that the current diplomatic crisis with the United States could be resolved if Israel affirmed that the agreed-upon status quo will not change, and that there will be no further building for Jews in predominantly Arab areas of the city like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
The president reportedly told Netanyahu and several ministers in his cabinet that every Israeli government until now has agreed not to build in predominantly Arab areas of the city. "Previous governments built in Jewish neighborhoods, but not in Arab ones," he said. "Even Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir did not build in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. That's why the entire world agreed to [building in Jewish areas], and it wasn't a stumbling block in negotiations."
During a birthday celebration on Friday for Dalia Rabin, a former MK and the daughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Peres recalled the elder Rabin's warm relations with former U.S. president Bill Clinton.
"My heart is crushed when I see how the [current] prime minister was received in Washington," Peres said. "I couldn't help thinking about better days."
The forum of seven senior ministers convened Friday afternoon to be briefed by Netanyahu on talks he conducted with U.S. government officials during his visit to Washington earlier in the week. The consensus reached at the meeting was reportedly that it was the U.S. administration, and not Israel, that changed its stance on construction in East Jerusalem, including its Jewish areas.
The ministerial forum will meet today as well as over the coming week, in a bid to present Washington with the Netanyahu government's official position on a series of issues - including building in East Jerusalem - by the end of the Passover holiday.