Monday, March 15, 2010

Labor Ministers: The consensus in Israel supports continuing to build in Jerusalem

(Jpost).Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received backing from his ministers and the parties in his coalition Sunday as he faced a deepening crisis in Israel’s relations with the American administration.

While officials in Washington were quoted as saying that Netanyahu would have to choose between his ties with US President Barack Obama’s government and his coalition partners, ministers and MKs took steps to ensure that he would not have to make such a difficult choice.

Despite American pressure, not one of the 30 ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet has expressed support for freezing construction over the pre-1967 border in Jerusalem. A check among the five Labor ministers found that they were all in favor of continuing to build in neighborhoods like Ramat Shlomo and Gilo, where the American administration opposes building.

“The consensus in Israel supports continuing to build in Jerusalem and that’s not going to change,” a Labor minister said.

In a speech to the Labor Party’s executive committee at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Defense Minister Ehud Barak denied the charge made by Obama adviser David Axelrod that a decision to build 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo was intentionally announced during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit in order to humiliate him.

“The technical mistake during Biden’s visit was not intentional but it was undoubtedly superfluous and dangerous,” Barak said. “Our connection with the American people and our relationship of respect with the American administration and the president are important components of Israel’s security and foreign relations.

“While we are ultimately responsible for our fate, our friendship with America is important for our security and for the chance to calm down the region, and this friendship requires us to behave with mutual respect and responsibility.”

National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer suggested at the event that the escalating pressure from the Obama administration on Netanyahu would only increase the prime minister’s popularity ratings.

“The more Bibi is scolded, the more Right the people will go,” Ben-Eliezer said.