State Dept. raps Israel on E. Jerusalem housing


(JTA) — The Obama administration criticized Israel over the approval of a new housing project in eastern Jerusalem.

"The United States is deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions with respect to housing construction in Jerusalem," a State Department official said Tuesday during a briefing.

More than 900 housing units in Har Homa were given final approval last week by the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee. The plan was first submitted for approval two years ago. Approval of the project was delayed twice in recent months due to political considerations. Work likely will not begin for two years; the project still requires a contractor and infrastructure.

"We have raised this issue with the Israeli government and continue to make our position known," the spokesman said. "As we have said before, unilateral actions work against efforts to resume direct negotiations and contradict the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties.

"We believe that through good-faith direct negotiations, the parties should agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its unique religious status for people around the world. We will continue to press ahead with the parties to resolve the core issues in the context of a peace agreement."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, as well as chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, also condemned the approval.

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