On Thursday, Oct. 2, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, strongly rejected statements made by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki with regard to Israeli plans for housing construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat HaMatos and Israeli Jews purchasing houses in the neighborhood of Silwan.
Commenting on these matters, Earnest stated: “This development [in Givat HaMatos] will only draw condemnation…” and “It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.” He further condemned “the recent occupation of residential buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan by people whose agenda provokes tensions, it only serves to escalate tensions.”
Psaki, the state department spokesperson, stated: “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies [and] poison the atmosphere…”
The Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy Nathan Diament issued the following statement in response:
“We reject yesterday’s harsh statements by the Obama Administration. First, they suggest that the onus for the peace process impasse is upon Israel, when in fact it is decades of Palestinian and Arab rejectionism and incitement (such as that voiced by Palestinian President Abbas at the UN General Assembly last week) that “poisons the atmosphere” for peace. Israel has demonstrated its interest in peace, not merely through words but through deeds, time and again.
Second, suggesting that Jews residing in neighborhoods of Jerusalem—the historic capital of Israel and the Jewish people—is “provocative” is offensive. It is also fundamentally at odds with the notion that differences over Jerusalem are to be resolved in negotiations.
Finally, the implied threat that Jewish residences in Jerusalem will “distance Israel from even its closest ally”—i.e., the United States—is a resort to rhetoric which is entirely unacceptable.
We appreciate the constructive conversation President Obama had yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the President’s restatement of his “unshakable” commitment to Israel’s security, which has been manifested in many practical ways. Yesterday’s statements by Administration spokespeople run counter to such a useful and productive working relationship.”