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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soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Stan

    Well done Joe. Iran is building nuclear weapons and denouncing Israel's right to exist, and all you can condemn is Israel building homes in its own terrotory. Great sense of perspective.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan W

    Of course the Obama administration will condemn Israel - it's popular these days, but take a stand against the Turkish genocide of the Armenians and it's, "Heavens no, we don't want to offend anyone."

    March 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Noimnotantisemetic

    Just another impotent politician gives lipservice to Israel. Like Sharon said....."we control the americans."

    March 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sar NY

    With out justise- Peace is dream.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Helena05

    How are the talks supposed to resume if Israel continue building houses on land that's not theirs...

    March 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    It's not enough to condem this action. It's time to stop unconditionally supporting Israel. Israel is playing the same game as Iran. Talk and delay. Iran will have their nuclear weapons and Israel will have all of the land and settlements that they want. Either Israel gets with the program or the US should stop all support and aid.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Martin Friedman

    Thank you George Mitchell, one of America's greatest, and Joe Biden, hold everone's toes to the fire until the justice squirts out. Contact me if needed to smooth things over.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. benj

    Who the hec is Joe Biden or Barak Obama to tell Israel where it can build new homes? Next time when you Arabs suprise attack 6 on 1 on our holiest day of the year and target synagogues where civillians are praying, you better win. Now you keep crying about land that you think belongs to you. And Americans, remember who your friends and enimies are. Israel will fight with us to the death in defence of democracy while Hamas will try to blow up our schools.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carol Burns

    It seems to me that a nation should be allowed to build or deny building where it wants. What was the reason the builing on the East side was not allowed? Was the reason environmental? Will there be restrictions on who can own/rent the housing units to be built? It seems to me that the Palestinians would raise objections for any reason - they always have. Becareful of accusing Israel of undermining the peace process.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Anne

    The true colours of the Obama administration will shine through–anti-Israel. Obama shares the same views of Israel as pro-Palestine Illinois candidate Gionoulious.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Realist

    U.S. Condems Israeli decision to build new housing units?! Hell, they were indirectly built using our tax dollars. Without U.S. financial and military aid, those settlements would never have been built. And we wonder why we have no credibilty in the Arab world.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brooks

    I think that announcing this decision as Biden arrives send the message that Israel will not be pressured or persuaded by the US to act in ways that the US considers necessary to achieve a meaningful peace. Put otherwise, Israel has apparently concluded that it has more to gain from continued conflict than a negotiated peace along the lines reasonably available, and promoted by the US and most other countries that are friendly to Israel.

    Since Israel is pursuing a policy that is contrary to the long stated interests of the US, and of
    most of Israel's other supporters, I have to ask the question- why do we continue to spend our blood and treasure supporting a country that acts in a way that perpetuates the conflict and causes damage to our security interests? By our financial, military and other support we are enabling the the wrong elements in Israel and perpetuating the conflicts in the middle east and elsewhere. A fundamental rethink is long overdue.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kelvin

    Mitchell is non existence in the eyes of the Isrealis. The US has no teeth because they need to remember who controls the senate and congress.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Leslie Gibbs

    Why does the United States have more rights than The Queen of the South to condemn? What in the world? Do they really know what condemning is?

    March 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chiguest

    The only time Isreal will be happy is when the have demolished the West Bank and Gaza and moved everyone from there. This is just another flagrant abuse by Isreal ignoring peace and UN sanctions just like other countries that shall remain nameless, except sanctions on other countries are enforced, because they have no money.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
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