The Obama administration sounded a defeated note of displeasure Monday following Israel’s announcement that it will push forward with plans to build new apartments in East Jerusalem despite criticism over the past week from Washington and other world capitals.
“It is unfortunate, for this to move forward, given not just the view of the United States but the view of many in the international community,” said State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, who added that Israel’s announcement does not bode well for prospect of future Israel-Palestine peace talks.
“Obviously, steps like this are contrary to that objective,” she said.
The Israeli government’s Planning and Building Committee announced its approval on Monday for the construction of 500 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo area of East Jerusalem, according to a report by the Associated Press.
While the new Israeli construction is expected to take years to come to the fore, the development signals a desire on the part of Israeli leaders to expand their overall presence in East Jerusalem, which Palestinian leaders have long-hoped to make the capital of a potential Palestinian state.
Recent months have seen Palestinian protesters clash regularly with Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem.
Israel has long asserted that all of Jerusalem is its capital. But Washington and others in the international community have never officially recognized that claim.
Monday’s back-and-forth between the Obama administration and Israel marks the latest in weeks of mounting tension between the two allies.
While foreign policy insiders say tensions stem from Israeli government frustration with the administration’s ongoing pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, news reports have focused more on political mudslinging between Washington and Jerusalem.
Israeli news organizations reported Friday that Secretary of State John F. Kerry had personally telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize for quotes attributed to an unnamed White House official smearing the Israeli leader in an American news report last week.
The news report, which appeared on the website of The Atlantic, quoted a “senior Obama administration official” as saying that “the thing about Bibi is, he’s a chicken——.” The report also said the overall White House posture toward the Israeli government’s policy of building settlements in the Palestinian-dominated West Bank was one of “red-hot anger” at Mr. Netanyahu.
Mrs. Psaki said Monday that Mr. Kerry and others in the Obama administration have “no current plans” to introduce future peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.