Amidst deteriorating relations between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government, the State Department has criticized Israel for approving the construction of over five hundred housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem that are across the pre-1967 lines, when East Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. In 2010, the Obama administration condemned similar construction and rebuked Israel in public.
“Well, our position on Jerusalem is clear,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Wednesday when asked about the construction. “We oppose any unilateral actions by either party that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. We’ve called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations. And that is certainly a message we’re sending on the ground as well.”
That message was delivered in 2010 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who berated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the telephone for 45 minutes. The tension between the two governments has built again as Clinton’s successor John Kerry attempts to pressure Israel to accept terms for a peace “framework” that include fundamental concessions on border security. Palestinians also reject some of Kerry’s peace terms.
The Obama administration has departed from the George W. Bush administration in opposing all construction across the pre-1967 lines, even construction in largely Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, as illegitimate “settlement.” Though Bush also avoided changes to the status of Jerusalem, such as relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, he formally recognized that some areas across the pre-1967 lines would be retained by Israel.