Visiting US Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday harshly condemned an announcement by Israel's Interior Ministry that it had approved the building of 1,600 new apartments in a large Jewish neighborhood in northeastern Jerusalem.
Following a dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted he did not know the announcement would be made at this time, Biden told reporters, "The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel."
The neighborhood in question is Ramat Shlomo, where tens of thousands of religious Orthodox Jews already live. Nevertheless, it is one of the neighborhoods the Palestinians insist must be evacuated and surrendered in return for peace.
Israelis have warned in the past that condemnations such as the one Biden issued only make peace more difficult by giving the Palestinians the justification they need to never compromise and never truly make peace with Israel.
As if on cue, the Palestinian Authority followed Biden's statement by declaring that the new building plans had further destroyed trust between the two sides and put upcoming indirect peace negotiations in jeopardy.