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. mark

    disgusting ! how is there going to be peace if Israel keeps expanding it's illegal occupation ?

    March 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jack

    like whats new. its been the same for the last 50 years and isnt going to change ever.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mihail

    Do Israelies really want peace? this sure shows otherwise.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. McJud

    Wait: in a couple of minutes Biden or a senior member of the administration will say something that looks like: "We did not mean ..." etc. "... out of context..." "what we wanted to say is... this kind of initiative is counterproductive", any way: we all konw the song.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. We No Longer Care America

    Like Israel really cares what the current U.S. administration thinks of its domestic moves. Why would they, Obama would sell them out in the blink of an eye!

    March 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Guest

    FUnny how everytime peace talks are being reinitiated, Israel does something to undermine the efforts as if they dont want peace. They're real goal is to exterminate the Palestinian people and take the whole area for they're greedy little selves.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bravo

    Bravo to the us for taking a step against israel. No country or people is above the law...no matter what their religion might tell them.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. yoish

    Out of all the atrocities commited around the world I dont think I have heard this administration use the word 'condemn'. Israel builds houses? OMG. Let's condemn them! They are hampering the worlds peace?? What kind of friends to Israel is this administration??

    March 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Paul Hill

    I am ashamed as an American when I hear my Vice-President deplore the construction of family housing in the 3,000 year old capital of the Jewish Nation, Jerusalem, Israel.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mohamed

    That;s all what the American admin does when it comes to Israel. Just talking.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pinky

    Good news! Israel, The people of the USA love you!

    March 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Soldier from Ft Hood

    Biden needs to STFU. What is a country going to do when their population is growing fast and with so little space to build upon. Biden talks of undermining. He's needs to stop undermining Isreal. I hope this administration doesn't royal screw up relations with our only true ally in the region.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Stan

    This is not news. Remember the USS Liberty. No matter how long and hard the US sucks, Israel will never be our friend. They will never care about anyone but themselves.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Donna Mansfield

    Peace...not apartheid!! Peace!! Peace!! Peace!! Stick to your guns, Biden and Mitchell!!!!

    March 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chuk

    Why is everyone surprised by this?
    First, Israel is not serious about peace talks. Probably have never been. It routinely puts on this act about "just wanting to live in peace". Yeah, but "peace" it's not willing to NEGOTIATE for.
    And nothing will change as long as America keeps playing this cat-and-mouse game with it. Perhaps because Israel is "too important" to told the truth. That sound familiar – "too important to fail"?
    How insulting that the very time when the vice president is there trying to help Israel with its problem is when they choose to throw more gasoline into the fire. America has made its bed and must lie in it. Just keep pandering to your "ally" and hope that the problems will eventually solve themselves. It's human nature to want to have it all – deny others everything and want to live in peace and quiet.
    I think its about time the world ignore that neighborhood and concentrate on real suffering elsewhere. Let Israel fight itself out of existence.

    March 9, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
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