Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reasserted his country’s right to construction in Jerusalem, saying “Jerusalem is not a settlement, it is our capital.” He further said, “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and they are building Jerusalem today.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s comments at a policy conference hosted by AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby, came in the backdrop of heightened tensions in Israel’s relationship with the United States over the stalling of U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and Palestine.
Earlier this month, even as Vice president Joe Biden was in the region to facilitate the talks, Israel’s Interior Ministry had announced that permission had been granted for 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem.
The talks drew to a standstill and a war of words ensured since then. However in recent days officials on both sides, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have tried to move back on track with the talks.
On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu was reported to have conveyed his views on construction in Jerusalem to Ms. Clinton. However he also defended the connection of the Jewish people to land in Israel saying, “The connection of the Jewish people [with] the land of Israel cannot be denied. The connection of the Jewish people and the land of Jerusalem cannot be denied.” He was reported as saying, nevertheless, that settlement construction would not stand in the way of peace.
Touching upon the role of the U.S., he said, “The United States can help the parties solve the problems. But it cannot solve the problem for the parties. Peace cannot be imposed from the outside. It can only come from direct negotiations in which we develop mutual trust… necessary to forge a common future.”