Any question as to the priorities of this miserably failed obama democrat administration?
White House rebukes Jerusalem housing plan
November 17, 2009
White House rebukes Jerusalem housing plan
In a rare public rebuke, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs issued a sharply-worded statement from China today expressing dismay and objection to an Israeli municipal body's decision to make way for hundreds more Jewish homes to be built in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo, abutting a Palestinian village with many residents fighting Israeli demolition orders.
"We are dismayed at the Jerusalem Planning Committee’s decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem," Gibbs said in the statement. "At a time when we are working to re-launch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations. The U.S. also objects to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes."
"Our position is clear," Gibbs continued. "The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties."
Gibbs' statement today appears to indicate White House tolerance is low for such provocations at such a delicate moment in its embattled efforts to get the parties back to the peace table.
Previously, the White House has tended to direct requests for comment about similar incidents -- Israeli evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem this past summer, for instance -- to the State Department. But in a notable departure from recent efforts to deal more quietly with differences with Jerusalem and a sign of mounting U.S. frustration, today's public rebuke was pointedly initiated in a stand-alone statement from the White House spokesman, currently traveling with Barack Obama in China.
Part of U.S. anger may stem from the fact that Israel apparently rejected U.S. requests made in private to defer the Jerusalem Planning Committe's decison to expand Gilo. Among the U.S. officials who reportedly conveyed U.S. concern was Middle East Peace Envoy George Mitchell, who met yesterday with Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho in London.
The Planning Committee's decision would reportedly make way for the expansion of the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo, in a neighborhood seized by Israel after the 1967 war, by some 900 housing units. The Gilo neighborhood is considered a suburb by many in Israel, and a settlement by the Palestinians and much the rest of the international community. The move to drastically expand Gilo while Palestinians are being evicted and having homes slated for demolition adds to growing Palestinian despair that Israel is changing facts on the ground to imperil the prospects for a two state solution.
The White House rebuke comes just over a week after Obama held a seventy minute one-on-one meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to focus largely on troubled efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In recent weeks, the Obama administration has been trying to persuade increasingly frustrated Palestinian leaders to agree to return to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with something short of a full Israeli settlement freeze. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has so far refused, even threatening to not run in Palestinian elections. Last week he walked back from the brink when he agreed to a decision to postpone Palestinian elections.
Netanyahu has said that he, unlike Abbas, is ready to go to peace talks anytime, anywhere, without preconditions. He has also recently said that he would agree to a nine-month moratorium on new housing starts, with several hundred exceptions, and further land expropriations of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
One Washington Middle East watcher who declined to be identified suggested Netanyahu might have been preparing to announce the moratorium deal (and Gilo may have been part of advance cover-seeking from his right flank), but it wasn't clear if that was the case, or still the case, and the administration declined to comment.
Netanyahu may have deliberately escalated a fight over Jerusalem, some analysts alternatively suggested, because the idea of keeping Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel has some support not only in Israel, but among some conservative American Jewish and Christian constituencies. "Our position is clear too," said Nathan Diament, of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. "Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel and the Jewish people and, in this context, it is also worth noting that that is the official policy of the United States as articulated in a duly enacted Act of Congress."
"No genuine Israeli interest is served by any of these projects," wrote former State Department Middle East hand Lara Friedman now with Americans for Peace Now and Danny Seidemann. "The only interest served by these projects is the prevention of the two-state solution and the transformation of the Israeli-Arab conflict from a difficult but resolvable conflict over territory into an irresolvable zero-sum religious war."
Posted by Laura Rozen 02:20 PM
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