On the eve of President Donald Trump's scheduled visit to Israel, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed the meeting over Jewish settlement construction in West Bank.
The Civil Administration's High Planning Committee stated that the move was taken in order to shun possible diplomatic flare-up between the U.S. and Israel and avoid the repeat of 2010 Joe Biden embarrassment, the Israeli newspaper Hareetz reported yesterday.
In 2010, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden publicly scolded Israel over the announcement of the Jewish settlement plan. Israel's announcement of the project changed the tone of a visit in which Biden had focused on reassuring Israelis that President Barack Obama was committed to their security in the face of a possible Iranian nuclear threat.
"It is incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them," Biden said in a media statement alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"Yesterday the decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem undermines that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin ... profitable negotiations," Biden said.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli cabinet minister apologized for what he termed "real embarrassment" caused to Biden by the news.
President Donald Trump has been more sympathetic to Israel's settlement policies than the fiercely critical Obama administration, and has also vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. Israel's nationalist government has welcomed the prospective change in policy, but it also risks igniting Palestinian and even regional unrest. The Palestinians want the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 war, as part of their hoped-for state.
Since Trump took office last month, Israel has announced plans to build over 6,000 settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians. The former U.S. administration of Barack Obama was deeply opposed to Israel's expansion of the settlements and in December withheld its veto from a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the policy.
The international community regards all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as illegal and a major obstacle to Middle East peace. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.
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