U.S. 'Deeply Concerned' by Israel's Approval of East Jerusalem Construction Plans

Foreign Ministry source: U.S. Embassy in Israel contacted Prime Minister's Bureau, Foreign Ministry to stress the seriousness of the American concern regarding the negative implications of the decision.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The United States said Tuesday it is "deeply concerned" by Israel's approval of new housing in East Jerusalem. In its condemnation of Israel's action, the U.S. is joining the EU, the UN, Russia and Turkey, who made similar statements in recent days.

A Foreign Ministry source in Jerusalem said that the U.S. Embassy in Israel contacted the Prime Minister's Bureau and the Foreign Ministry and stressed the seriousness of the American concern regarding the negative implications of the decision, which may make it impossible to block unilateral Palestinian efforts for recognition of statehood at the United Nations in September.

The east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof.Credit: Tomer Neuberg

The State Department said in a statement that such "unilateral actions work against efforts to resume direct negotiations and contradict the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties."

The State Department also said it raised its objections with the Israeli government.

Alongside its rare rebuke of a close ally, Washington said Israelis and Palestinians should settle their differences on Jerusalem through negotiation, adding that the United States "will continue to press ahead with the parties to resolve the core issues in the context of a peace agreement."

Before Tuesday's statement, the U.S. had been mostly silent on East Jerusalem construction over the last few months, which had seemingly become peripheral to U.S. concerns. The subject had been nearly completely absent from talks between the White House and the Prime Minister's Bureau.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai approved the construction of more than 900 housing units in Har Homa last Thursday, confirming a plan that was approved two years ago by the District Planning Committee, and only now is in the process being finalized.

The decision will free the Housing and Construction Ministry to begin marketing land to developers for construction.

Four days earlier, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned Israel's approval of the new housing units.

"The European Union has repeatedly urged the government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. All settlement activities are illegal under international law," Ashton was quoted as saying in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's forum of eight ministers will meet Wednesday to discuss political assessments on the UN vote for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in September. Netanyahu has stepped up the rate at which deliberations are held and they are expected to continue at least once a week until September.

During the discussions, Israeli responses will be considered as well as the possibility that there may be a violent confrontation in the West Bank the day after the UN vote.

This follows a statement by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Sunday charging that the Palestinian Authority is planning "unprecedented bloodletting" for September and claimed that he will demand from the Netanyahu and forum that Israel should cut off all contacts with the Palestinians, including security coordination.

For their part, other ministers in the senior forum, including Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, believe that the Palestinians have no intention of violence following the UN vote.

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