Israeli Minister: Peace Now ‘Poisoning the Atmosphere’ With New Settlements Claim
by Dave Bender
Israeli Transportation Minister Israel Katz on Thursday came out swinging against the US Administration’s scathing comments that Israeli construction in a disputed Jerusalem neighborhood would “poison” Israel’s relations with its allies, and the Israeli NGO that leaked details of the move, NRG News reported.
“Construction in Givat Matos strengthens Jerusalem from the south – which is good,” Katz said in the interview, referring to some 2,600 units set to be constructed on a hillside in southern Jerusalem, just over the Green Line, but within the city’s municipal jurisdiction.
“The final approval was signed a week ago, but Peace Now, a fringe group that gets most of its funding from foreign sources, leaked [details of the decision] – on the day of the Prime Minister’s meeting with the President of the United States – in order to poison the atmosphere. Many places would have shunned them, but here, we roll out the red carpet. We will continue to build and strengthen Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, said after the announcement, that “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
And Katz wasn’t alone in his stinging rebuke. Not by a longshot.
“This isn’t a settlement. These are neighborhoods in Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told no less than six television networks in a marathon one-on-one interview session after his meeting with President Barack Obama.
“If you said to me that in some city in the United States or in Mexico, or anywhere else, Jews cannot buy apartments, there would be an uproar. You know, there’s not only the freedom of property, but the right of every individual to live where they want, as long as they purchase the apartment legally and don’t expropriate, don’t take over, which isn’t the case here,” Netanyahu said.
“This was a free transaction. So I just want to understand this policy. It flies in the face of American values, and it flies in the face of common sense,” according to the PM.
After Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also wasted no time in firing back against the State Department remarks.
“I say this firmly and clearly: building in Jerusalem is not poisonous and harmful – rather, it is essential, important and will continue with full force. I will not freeze construction for anyone in Israel’s capital. Discrimination based on religion, race or gender is illegal in the United States and in any other civilized country,” according to Barkat.
“2,600 apartments in Givat HaMatos that we approved two years ago will enable more young people from all sectors and religions to live in Jerusalem and build their future here, thereby strengthening the capital of Israel. We will not apologize for that,” he said in a statement released Thursday.
In response, Yariv Oppenheimer, who heads Peace Now, responded to the harsh criticism of his organization.
“I recommend to the prime minister to schedule the next meeting with Obama when the country goes into Yom Kippur – the one day of the year when it’s not expanding settlements,” Oppenheimer wrote on Twitter.