Israeli leader dismisses Biden administration objections to housing construction in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed several objections by the Biden administration over Israeli construction in Jerusalem, telling the Americans that the city is Israel’s capital and not a settlement, Channel 12 reported Thursday.
According to the report, the U.S. official temporarily in charge of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, until a new ambassador is appointed, lodged a complaint last month objecting to Israel’s approval for 450 housing units in the Har Homa neighborhood.
There were at least three complaints from the Biden administration to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office expressing American opposition to any Israeli construction beyond the Green Line – the old 1948 ceasefire line that also runs through the city of Jerusalem that the Trump administration officially recognized as Israel’s capital.
Netanyahu reportedly told the Americans that “Jerusalem is not a settlement, but the capital of Israel.”
Donald Trump was the president who finally implemented official American policy and fulfilled an act of Congress, the Jerusalem Embassy Act, that was made law in October 1995. That legislation was approved by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote in both houses but had not been implemented out of fear that moving the embassy to Jerusalem could spark violence across the region.
The violence never materialized. The embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018 – the first of several key steps under the Trump administration leading to the historic Abraham Accords that saw Israel and several Arab countries establish diplomatic relations. The Biden administration has already acknowledged the reality and said that the U.S. embassy is staying put in Jerusalem.
The new housing in Har Homa is the first construction plan approved since U.S. President Joe Biden came in to office in January. Following the Har Homa announcement, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan raised similar concerns over the new building approvals in Jerusalem as well as in Judea and Samaria, the Channel 12 report said, leading to Netanyahu’s firm statement on Jerusalem.
Pressure from the Biden administration is expected to increase as it pushes its policy of a “rules-based international order” and insists that neither Israel nor the Palestinians should take any unilateral actions before peace talks resume – although there is no indication that negotiations, from which the Palestinians walked away during the Obama administration, will happen any time soon.