Friday, October 15, 2010

US State Dep. "regrets" Netanyahu building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem

The United States expressed disappointment on Friday over reports that Israel had approved tenders for construction of nearly 240 new housing units in East Jerusalem.

"We were disappointed by the announcement of new tenders in east Jerusalem yesterday. It is contrary to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties," U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said during a press conference in Washington.

The Housing and Construction Ministry, along with the Israel Lands Administration, released its list of 3,500 newly approved tenders set for construction across the country.

The list includes 150 residential buildings in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot and another 80 in Pisgat Ze'ev. While both neighborhoods are technically set in the northern part of the city, they are considered East Jerusalem due to their location east of the Green Line.

Crowley said that Israel informed the U.S. ahead of time about the tenders for construction in East Jerusalem.

"We told them just what I told you: that we felt this was contrary to what we were trying to do to…get direct negotiations resumed," Crowley said.

This was the first time a tender has been issued for East Jerusalem since U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel last March, when it was announced that 1,600 housing units would be built in the area despite the settlement freeze.

Israeli officials said they discussed the construction with the U.S. administration and cut the number of planned units to temper American displeasure.