Netanyahu says settlement criticism 'against American values', scores US scorn

Netanyahu says settlement criticism 'against American values', scores US scorn
Israel's prime minister has stated that US criticism of new Jewish settlements is “against American values,” adding that the idea of Israel ceasing its building efforts in Jerusalem is “anti-peace.” The White House responded by calling the comments “odd.”

At a daily briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest fired back at Netanyahu, saying "it did seem odd for him [Netanyahu] to try to defend the actions of his government by saying our response did not reflect American values."

“When it comes to American values, it is American values that led to this country’s unwavering support of Israel,” Earnest said. “It’s American values that have led us to fund an Iron Dome system.”

The White House spokesman reiterated Washington's condemnation of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, stating that if the country continues developing construction, it “will send a troubling message.”

Earnest’s comments come in response to Netanyahu’s interview with CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday, when he stated that Washington’s criticism of 2,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem was “against American values.”

“It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” he said. “The idea that we’d have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it’s anti-peace.”

Reuters / Abed Omar Qusini

On October 1, the White House lashed out at Israel following reports of new settlement construction approval in the Givat HaMatos neighborhood – one of the most sensitive regions in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu said he was “baffled” by the American criticism.

"This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies [and] 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," Earnest said at a briefing then.

Washington said that Israel's continuous construction of houses in the disputed area “call into question Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

But Netanyahu rejected the criticism, stating that he “did not accept” it. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he is “firm” and will continue the project “with full force.”

"I say this firmly and clearly: building in Jerusalem is not poisonous and harmful – rather, it is essential,” Barkat said.

The plan to build 2,600 apartments in the Givat HaMatos neighborhood of the Palestinian part of Jerusalem was agreed upon two years ago, though it was not until September 2014 that it received final approval.

While Israel insists it has the right to build settlements in the region, the US considers construction there illegitimate. Washington says that ceasing its building in the area – which is claimed by both Israel and Palestine – is the essential condition for peace between the two sides.