March 10, 2010 in News
Israel sorry for announcing homes plan during Biden visit (guardian.co.uk):
Israel apologised to Joe Biden today for announcing a plan to build 1,600 homes on occupied Palestinian land during his visit, after the US vice-president launched a strongly worded attack on the planned construction in an East Jerusalem settlement.
An Israeli cabinet minister apologised for the timing of the announcement but not for its substance. “This should not have happened during a visit by the US vice-president,” the welfare minister, Isaac Herzog, told Army Radio. “This is a real embarrassment and now we have to express our apologies for this serious blunder.”
The Israeli interior ministry’s approval of the plan cast a cloud over a visit to the country by Biden just hours after he pledged strong support for the Israeli government.
In a statement issued after he arrived 90 minutes late for a dinner with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said: “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units.”
He said the blueprint for Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox settlement in an area of the West Bank annexed to Jerusalem, “undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions I’ve had in Israel”.
The approvals came just a day after the Israeli defence ministry announced that 112 apartments would be built in Beitar Illit, a settlement on the occupied West Bank. The new building comes at a delicate moment in the long-stalled peace process after Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to start indirect negotiations.
Biden meets Abbas amid row over settlements (BBC):
US Vice-President Joe Biden is meeting the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah.
The Israeli government’s approval of plans for 1,600 more homes in a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem is expected to dominate the talks.
Mr Biden earlier said the substance and timing of the decision had undermined the trust needed for peace talks.
The Palestinian Authority said the move showed the Israelis believed US efforts had failed before they had even begun.
Both sides have agreed to hold indirect “proximity talks” in a bid to restart the peace process, which has been stalled for 17 months.
Mr Abbas has refused to resume direct negotiations with the Israeli government because of its refusal to put a complete stop to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In November, Israel announced a 10-month suspension of new building in the West Bank, under heavy US pressure. But it considers areas within the Jerusalem municipality as its territory and the restrictions do not apply.
Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
With Biden in West Bank, Settlements Cloud Talks (New York Times):
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived here on Wednesday to meet with Palestinian leaders as the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, expressed dismay at Israel’s announcement a day earlier that it planned to build 1,600 new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem
“It is damaging, for sure,” Mr. Fayyad said. “This is a moment of challenge to the efforts led by the United States to get the peace process going again. We definitely appreciate the strong statements of condemnation by the administration vis-à-vis this action. This definitely undermines confidence in prospects of the political process which we are all working very hard on.”
Mr. Biden was due to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas afterward.
Hours after Mr. Biden vowed unyielding American support for Israel’s security here on Tuesday, . Mr. Biden condemned the announcement of the new housing as “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was clearly embarrassed at the move by his interior minister, Eli Yishai, leader of the right-wing Shas Party, who has made Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem one of his central causes.
Related Material From the Archive:
- Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Likely to Meet Soon, Both Sides Say
- Israel authorises 455 new settlement units
- East Jerusalem should be Palestinian capital, says EU draft paper
- US takes on Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear programme in one massive gamble
- Peace Talks With Taliban Are a Top Issue in Afghan Vote
- ‘Israel won’t yield to U.S. demands, won’t halt settlement construction’
- Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman Says Will Resign If Indicted
- Israeli official: No option off table on Iran