WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented dueling positions on Jerusalem construction Monday, underlining a recent spat between the allies while simultaneously suggesting the incident is behind them.
Israel recently announced new housing plans for East Jerusalem, the part of the city Palestinians want for a future capital, drawing unusually sharp criticism from the Obama administration. Clinton renewed that disapproval Monday, telling a pro-Israel audience that provocative Israeli land policies in areas claimed by the Palestinians are not in Israel’s long-term interests and undermine U.S. credibility.
Speaking later in the day to a crowd of nearly 8,000 pro-Israel activists at the same forum, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, including hundreds of congressmen and senators, Netanyahu did not budge from his position that building anywhere in Jerusalem is an Israeli right.
But at the same time both sides appeared to be indicating that while differences may remain, the spat should not be allowed to further mar ties or delay Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The spread of Jewish homes on land claimed by Palestinians threatens the administration’s first attempts at shuttle diplomacy intended to establish an independent Palestinian state, Clinton said, and makes it hard for the United States to be an honest broker.
“Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.” She also criticized Palestinian incitement to violence.
The crowd responded with notably more enthusiasm to Netanyahu’s assertion that Jews had been building in Jerusalem for 3,000 years and that Israel would continue to do so.