March 9th, 2010
05:43 PM ET

U.S. condemns Israeli decision to build new housing units

[Updated 5:34 p.m.] White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs echoed Biden's condemnation at a briefing in Washington. 

"I don't believe that either the substance or the timing [of the announcement] is particularly helpful, and I think [it] runs counter to the very productive talks the vice president was having in the region," Gibbs said. 

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 [Updated 3:34 p.m.] Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the United States condemns Israel's decision to build new housing units in a Jerusalem neighborhood, calling it "a step that undermines the trust we need right now." 

"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units," Biden said in a statement issued just hours after he met with Israeli leaders in the region. 

"The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel." 

Israel announced plans earlier Tuesday to build 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem, but denied the new construction is in East Jerusalem - a sticking point in the Mideast peace process. 

[Posted 1:32 p.m. ] Israel said Tuesday it would build 1,600 new housing units in a Jerusalem neighborhood, but denied the new construction is in east Jerusalem - a sticking point in the Mideast peace process. 

However, lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Israeli government is "determined to undermine" efforts to jump-start peace negotiations, calling the plan "a disaster." 

The Israeli Interior Ministry said it would build the new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, located on the east side of the Green Line in disputed territory. The line separates the borders of Israel as delineated by the United Nations from territory Israel captured in 1967 in the Six-Day War. 

The announcement Tuesday came amid visits to Israel by U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden and George Mitchell, the Obama administration's special envoy for Middle East peace. 

Mitchell said Monday that Israeli and Palestinian leaders had accepted indirect talks aimed at restarting direct talks. Negotiations between the two sides have been stalled for over a year. 

In announcing those indirect talks, Mitchell encouraged both sides to refrain from any statements or actions that could inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of the talks. 

"It is a disaster," Erakat said in response to the plan. "We have a determined government in Israel, that is determined to undermine Mr. Senator Mitchell. They are determined to undermine the Obama administration's efforts to revive peace ... It can't be tolerated."

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Filed under: Middle East
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. JG

    One more thing:
    Playing "hardball" with the Arabs without holding the Isrealis accountable for their actions will only escalate terrorism against the US. This should be obvious to any sane, rational person.

    March 9, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Richard Huber

    After almost six decades it finally appears that the United States has been backing the wrong side in the middle East.

    March 9, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patrick A

    Is that right,funny how Arabs and Jews use to live in relative peace before the Zionist started taking over that land.

    March 9, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bryon Letterman

    VP Biden, as I told people when he and Obama took office, is a total waste when it comes to him being the VP. I am growing frustrated with the hipocrosy of the Obama administration when we're in two different countries right now, and were telling Israel that they cant build houses in its own capital? I dont ever claim to be a very devoted religious guy or anything, but I have a certain respect for Israel because theyve stood against ridiculous odds to remain a country. The Bible says that if you bless them you will be blessed, but if you curse them you will be cursed. The Palestinians lauch rockets into Israel, send suicide bombers into Jerusalem's streets and kill innocent women and children. Israel responds by sending tanks down the streets of Palestine and the world somehow sees fault Israel. That is total madness. We cant risk confusing the acts of terrorism against Israel as moves for Palestinian independence. LONG LIVE ISRAEL!

    March 9, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kent

    Israel is being a little short sighted here. Long term, what are they trying to accomplish. Peace is the object, not stubborn idiotic behavior.

    I'm neither Jewish, Muslim, Christian.....just a concerned human being. Chill Israel!!!

    March 10, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jon Baker

    When the Muslims ruled that land, there was peace for a thousand years. Christians came and lived in harmony with them. That's why when you go to Jerusalem you will see very old Mosques sitting right next to very old Churches. Even when Muslims ruled Spain for 900 years, the Jews came and lived under them in peace. The Golden Era of the Jews happened under and Islamic Empire. People need to learn their history.

    The Jews have barely been ruling the land for ~70 years and they have brought nothing but holocaust. They are treating the Palestinian people like they were treated in Eastern Europe. They already built a wall just like in Berlin. Now they build houses every month in areas they are not allowed to be in, completely ignoring international law.

    March 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rudy

    Dear Patty who are the first comment in this expose. No doubt your heart is not in the well being of America and youjr comment souds like a Zionist propaganda. Israel has the right to exist but not the right to get our money while at the same time sabotize America's efforts and policies whatever they may be. There is an old saying, You do not bite the hand that feeds you. Remember that if you do not defend and protect your house it will fall on you and kill you. Obama was not my preference but the man is doing a good in fact an excellent job. Please Patty, have some balance, for your own good.

    March 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sally

    To all the posts that condemn America for not minding our business:
    When you ask us for a hand out it becomes our business. That money can be better use here in America. If you choose to fight with the Arabs over a piece of sand SO BE IT. You are as much as an allied as Iran. That is why we need to be energy independent.
    Ironically the foreign aides we hand you is the same money you use to lobby our politicians. What is wrong with that picture?
    America should stop funding Israel and let them do whatever they want. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I do not want my tax money to go to build more settlement for Israel. If Israel choose to have conflict for the next 100 more years, I am OK with that as long as not a dime is coming from us.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. Marine

    Well Said Sally, I said the same thing above. Well Said. More Americans need to stand for this. We have destroyed our image abroad becuase of this country.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. Brennan

    While their new housing units in the disputed area may make peace even more isn't as if it was going to happen very soon anyways. Israel had offered to take the deal given to them back in the 40s, but alas the Arabs attempted to remove the state of Israel from existence right then. Ever since that time the Israelis have been fighting a war for their own freedom and such against people whom would rather toss the Israelis "back into the sea." In any case, no peace will be made as long as the Palestinians keep demanding East Jerusalem as their capital, that is one thing I know Israelis will not allow to least in my lifetime.

    March 11, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. larmeister

    Here's the bottom line.....why wouldn't we support a country that spends it's time/money for the betterment of the world?
    Look at all of the medical and technilogical ideas/products/treatments that were developed in Israel.
    It's interesting to me that when Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the first thing that the arabs did was demolish/loot millions of dollars in infrastructure....they didn't use the technology to better themselves.
    Once those animals start using their resources to better their people and not to the destruction of Israel (or any other country or ideal), then, and only then will their (self made) problems disappear!!

    March 11, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bill

    Sick of people crying "Anti-Semitism" when clearly this is a question of land ownership that Palestinians primarily (not Jews) have held for generations. The Jewish people were in "diaspora" remember??? And the diaspora was created, among other things, by Jewish people seeking greener pastures abroad, and not necessarily because of oppression. Of course, there are numerous examples of oppression of the Jewish people – we cannot, and should not forget them. But in which other society, country, land do you have people claiming land that they lost centuries ago? Should white people get out of North America and return the land to the native Americans because it has been their land for millennia? I cannot understand that people can be such blind supporters of EVERY act of Israel – as if Israel is incapable of doing anything wrong. I admire the resilience of the Jews, but also deplore that a once-oppressed, proud people are now becoming brutal oppressors, and manipulating public emotion by repeating lies so often that they are perceived as truths. Great public relations campaign – gain sympathy by casting the puny attacks of the Palestinians into holocaust proportions. I laugh when I read about the "rockets" launched by Hizbollah and the exaggerated claims of damage and death in Israel. THOUSANDS of Palestinians have been killed, and no one condemns, or even recognizes, the horrific crime, but even if a few Israeli homes are slightly damaged, the media will constantly show the damage and wailing women. Until we become fair in our policy in the Mid-East, Americans will continue to be, unfortunately, targeted.

    March 11, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Geneff

    Any peace treaty needs honest power brokers on both sides. The US has credibility, but how can we help broker a peace when we are allied with Israel? Palestinians and Arab states need a superpower with credibility, leverage and skin in the game to mediate a peace the world can live with. We all know that of course two wrongs never make a right. As tragic as our plight was, slave descendants in America sold into slavery generations ago can't back to Africa and seize power from indigenous tribes. Nor can expat Europeans or Asian immigrants go back to reclaim the past no matter the injustice that caused them to flee. It would just be wrong!

    March 11, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Angpearce123

    guess what? Israel does not need us! God will defend her! With or without us. He will bless those that bless Israel.

    March 21, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
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