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. Scott H

    I condemn Joe Biden. There. I feel better.
    Lets not forget the sweetheart of a deal that was offered to the Palestinians by the Israelis during the last years of Clinton... and the Palestinians chose the path of further terrorism. (Which, is in keeping with Palestinian tradition, so lets not be surprised... Munich anyone?)

    March 9, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Patty

    obama & his administration continue to allianate our allies.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dr. Randall Norris, Ph.D.

    This clearly demonstrates, as though the world needed any more proof, that Israel has no intention of ever allowing a peace treaty to resolve this issue. They don't want to "negotiate" they want to dictate and keep the Palestinians as their slaves forever, or until such time as they kill them all, just as the Germans did to the Jews. Amazing how over time we become the thing we despise the most.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gamal

    dont just condemn stop it. this is the root of all trouble in ME

    March 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. peace

    At least the U.S. is now publicly speaking out against Israeli settlement policy. Israel may be bound and determined to have the entire Muslim (and some others) world hating them but the U.S. can begin to build some credibility with moderate Muslims by openly condemning Israeli policy and actions. The U.S. would further gain support by withdrawing funding for Israel for each transgression it chooses to make in this area. Continuing to fund state-sponsored terrorism in the form of Israeli policy is a costly and foolish move for the U.S..

    A non-Jewish, non-Muslim U.S. citizen who is sick of this conflict.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Michael

    The US is right. Both sides pull this garbage each time. The leaders on both sides don't want peace. If you need homes build skyscrapers...don't build sprawling neighborhoods. Enough is enough. I am an US Jew and am disgusted with all sides......grow up all of you!!

    March 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. alan ellis

    One of the most amazing things the Arabs have succeeded in doing is blinding the world to the real truth about Jerusalem. Jerusalem as some mesure of holiness to Moslems and Christians but it is the holiest city to the Jews. The arabs controlled Jerusalem for thousands of years and never made it the capital of anything. The Jews were the majority in East Jerusalem until they were driven out by the ARab legion (with the help of the British) in 1948. The only reason the ARabs care about this issue is because they don't accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and the United States should insist that the arabs recognize the right of Israel to exist as Jewish state and to build wherever they want in their holiest city.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Harold

    Isreal has never been a true ally, it's using the US for it own and only its own interrests, when will we wake up ??????????????????????

    March 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. stan t

    you know it's funny. when another nation does things we dont like time after time we dont normally continue sending them billions of dollars of aid each and every year.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chris

    Really? Why would they do this right now? Just doesn't seem very prudent. Don't both sides want to at least take one step toward peace (if possible) ???? This seems like a slap in the face. And I am all for Israel. Strange.....

    March 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cybersport

    This can't bode well for the U.S. Kudos to our government for speaking out

    March 9, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Big Country

    I am pleased that Israel is going forward with building more houses in Jerusalem, Israel's capital. The west bank is where ancient Judea is located, the heart of Israel, which was crushed by the Romans and handed over to the Philistines, at which time the Romans renamed the land Palistina, in order to mock Judea and humiliate them. Jerusalem is Israeli forever! Dare to take it from us again.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ola

    How can Israel expect peace when it keeps in Palestinian areas? If it keeps building, what will be left to make into a state?

    Israel claims it wants peace, but is not willing to do anything in order to obtain it, even though its settlements are illegal under international law.

    Biden, if you were so angry at israel, you wouldn't be flaunting around how Israel and the US have such strong ties!

    Palestinians haven't been asking for peace for 18 months are 18 days, its been 18 years!!

    For those of you who are going to say the "don't deserve it" because they are "violent muslims," tell me what you would do if your land was taken because you lost the papers which are from the 1800s saying the land is yours, have a child shot in the head while walking to school because apparently he was a "militant", have no access to medicine, have very little water and food while israelis get to enjoy long hot baths in houses built on your land, Jewish settlers receive better treatment than you in areas Israel considers Israel, and if you say they are pestering you, no one does anything, are able to grow strawberries and carnations but because of the embargo cannot sell them, and when peaceful attempts fail (looking at all negotiations that have happened between Israel and Palestine and comparing that to the protection Hamas tries to give and how Hizbollah trashed Israel's economy like what Israel did to Lebanon, the militant side seems to be at least fighting for the people compared to corrupt governments who could care less about the Palestinians coughFatahcoughUSAcough.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Moki, Tucson

    Here we go again! Israel does not want peace!

    I do not want my country spending one more dime supporting Israel! We have taken sides in a Holy War between religious fanatics. We will never be free of terrorism while we support one side of this war. There will never be peace in the Middle East as long as one side of religious fanatics are controlling Jerusalem and the Holy Lands. The only solution is International ownership and management of Jerusalem and selected areas–just as was envilsioned prior to 1948 before the Jews took control of Jerusalem.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Noimnotantisemetic

    Perhaps we should revisit the billion$ we give this sttler colony. Millions of Americans are struggling, yet no Congressman has the cajones to suggest healing Likud,

    March 9, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
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