JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected U.S. criticism of Israel’s plans for new housing units in eastern Jerusalem.
Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the criticism of Israel’s construction, not the building, is harming the chance for peace with the Palestinians.
“We will continue to build in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. We have built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem and we will continue to build in Jerusalem,” he said Tuesday.
“I have heard a claim that our construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem makes peace more distant. It is the criticism which is making peace more distant. These words are detached from reality.”
The United States on Monday condemned the reported approval by Netanyahu to plan construction of at least 1,000 new housing units in eastern Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods.
“If Israel wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps that will reduce tensions,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday during a regular news briefing. “Moving forward with this sort of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace.”
Psaki said Washington was “deeply concerned” by the reports Monday that Netanyahu had approved going forward with planning for at least 600 apartments in Ramat Shlomo and 400 in Har Homa. The Prime Minister’s Office has neither announced the plans nor confirmed the reports.
“We view settlement activities as illegitimate and we are unequivocally opposed to unilateral steps,” Psaki told reporters.
Netanyahu said the criticism of building housing in Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem “foster(s) false statements among the Palestinians. When Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] incites to murder Jews in Jerusalem, the international community is silent, and when we build in Jerusalem they are up in arms. I do not accept this double standard.”