Israel’s construction and housing minister rebuffed U.S. criticism of a plan to build new homes in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.
Ze’ev Boim issued a tersely worded statement Saturday after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the planned construction of 300 new residential units in Har Homa “doesn’t help to build confidence” that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, revived at last week’s Annapolis conference, have a future.
“Secretary of State Rice should be congratulated for her efforts in relaunching the peace process,” Boim said. “But this cannot constantly be linked to the cessation of construction in Jerusalem.
“Har Homa is within Jerusalem’s municipal borders, where Israeli law applies,” Boim added. “There is therefore nothing to prevent construction there, just as there is nothing to prevent construction anywhere else in Israel.”
Palestinians consider Har Homa to be within the West Bank, where Israel, under the peace “road map,” is obligated to freeze all settlement construction.
The building project, first approved seven years ago when current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was Jerusalem mayor, has been criticized as well by the United Nations and Egypt.