“Jerusalem is not a settlement, it is the capital of Israel,” Prime Minister Binyamin’s office said Tuesday in response to foreign criticism of construction in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem located to the east of the 1949 armistice line.
Netanyahu rejected claims that construction in Jerusalem affects Israel’s chance of coming to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. “Israel does not see any connection between the peace process and the policy of planning and construction in Jerusalem, which has not changed in 40 years,” the statement read.
Israel has built in “every part of the city” for the past 40 years, and during that time signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and held direct talks with PA leaders for many years, Netanyahu reminded the world. “Construction in Jerusalem has never interfered with the peace process,” he noted.
The statement came as Netanyahu is visiting the United States, where he will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday. Earlier in the day U.S. President Barack Obama criticized Israel’s approval of Jerusalem construction from Indonesia. “This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations,” he said.
On Monday, U.S. officials said they were “deeply disappointed” by the Jerusalem building project.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton criticized Israel as well. Ashton said she was “extremely concerned” by the proposed construction, and called for the approval for the project to be rescinded.
More construction is planned in the Jewish neighborhoods of Ramot and Har Homa in Jerusalem. Both neighborhoods are built on previously unsettled land that was annexed to Israel more than 40 years ago after having been restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Demand for housing is high in Jerusalem, which is home to 800,000 and enjoys one of the nation’s highest birth rates.