WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to lodge "strong objections" to Israel's announcement of a Jewish housing project in east Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel this week.
Clinton told Netanyahu the announcement of 1,600 apartments for Jews in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital under U.S.-backed plans for a two-state peace deal, was "a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach" to relations with the United States, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Friday in Washington.
"The secretary said she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States' strong commitment to Israel's security," Crowley said. "And she made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process."
The Obama administration was blindsided and embarrassed by Israel's announcement Tuesday, which caused an uproar in the Arab world. Arab League ministers agreed March 3 to back a return to indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Asked if the United States disputed Netanyahu's explanation that he did not know the announcement was coming, Crowley replied: "He is the head of the Israeli government and ultimately is responsible for the actions of that government."