Yesterday, I did a post on the announcement by the Israeli government that it was going to start building more settlements in occupied territory — while Vice President Biden was en route to Israel for peace talks:
I’m no expert on the Middle East, but it sure looks like the Israeli government trying to send the U.S. a signal. From the pool report, we were told Biden’s plane left for Jerusalem at 8:30 PM EST and arrived at 4:08 Israeli time (seven hours ahead of EST.)
Today, from Jerusalem, Biden issued a statement on this action, which used some pretty strong diplomatic language:
I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. 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. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict. The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, “we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks.”
Would that everyone listened to George Mitchell (something that was said often by people from Maine who revered him).
This is such a complicated issue. It does seem like the U.S. government was being tested. And, Biden really didn’t mince words.