J Street Urges Israel to Halt Settlement Building Until Borders Finalized

Pro-Israel lobby 'profoundly disappointed' by news of approval to build nearly 1,000 houses beyond Green Line.

The pro-Israel lobby J Street issued a statement Monday criticizing Israel's announcement that it had approved the construction of over 1,000 Jewish homes beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.

Alon Ron

"J Street is profoundly disappointed that the Israeli government has chosen this moment to announce yet another large round of construction in East Jerusalem," the statement said.

The news coincided with a trip to the United States by Netanyahu, which included a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. It was during a trip by Biden to Israel earlier in the year that a diplomatic row erupted between the allies over Israeli plans to build 1,600 new Jewish homes in another East Jerusalem neighborhood, Ramat Shlomo.

"The latest negotiations designed to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hang by a thread, and the United States is working tirelessly to find a way to keep hope for a diplomatic two-state resolution to the conflict alive," the J Street statement said, adding that the news was even more disappointing "Netanyahu is in the U.S. this week, participating in important discussions with Vice President Biden and other American officials over how to resume peace talks and how to address the Iranian nuclear program."

Earlier this year, Israel announced the construction of over 1,600 new houses for ultra-Orthodox families in East Jerusalem.

"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem," Biden said, as the timing of the announcement was strongly criticized by both the left wing parties in Israel and the U.S. administration. 

The American-Jewish lobby urged Israel to delay any further construction over the Green Line "until negotiations over the border have been finalized, in the interest of its long-term security and survival as a democracy and as the homeland of the Jewish people."

Last month, over 120 leaders of Jewish organizations from around the world and important Jewish figures met in Jerusalem for a two-day conference for a meeting organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute to deliberate the impact of the peace process and possible concessions to be expected and demanded a role in determining the fate of Jerusalem and other key issues in Mideast peace talks.

Participants in the conference were former presidential adviser Elliott Abrams; Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations; former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer; the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman; the senior vice president of Bna'i B'rith International, Daniel Mariaschin; Pierre Besnainou, a leading figure of the Jewish community in France; and others.