Laura Rozen
Politico (Analysis)
November 8, 2010 - 1:00am

The United States expressed deep disappointment over Israeli government plans to build 1,300 new housing units in contested East Jerusalem, the State Department said Monday.

"We were deeply disappointed by the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told journalists Monday. "It is counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties."

Crowley said he expected the issue to be a subject of discussion when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday in New York.

The Israeli government appeared to once again embarrass Vice President Joe Biden with the timing of the East Jerusalem housing plans, argued an analysis by the pro-peace group Americans for Peace Now Monday.

While a previous Israeli East Jerusalem housing announcement came during Biden's goodwill trip to Israel last March, the latest announcement came as Biden met with Netanyahu on the sideline of the Jewish Federations conference in New Orleans on Sunday, and then gave a speech "pledging America's unconditional support for Israel and saying that there should be 'no daylight' between the U.S. and Israel when it comes to security," the group wrote.

"And [Netanyahu] has rewarded ... Vice President Biden for his staunch support of Israel - by publicly humiliating the Vice President once again and sticking a finger in they eye of the Obama Administration."

The White House has been unusually un-forthcoming about Biden's meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday in New Orleans, and did not send any pool reports of Biden's appearance or a transcript of his speech, while Netanyahu's speech was widely distributed.

Saying "all indications are that the [Netanyahu-Biden] meeting went very well," one conference attendee speculated that perhaps the reason the White House hadn't distributed Biden's speech was because it contained "too much over-the-top pro-Israel red meat for international consumption?"

"I don’t think the Vice President’s taking this personally," the State Department's Crowley insisted at the press conference Monday, referring to the timing of the latest East Jerusalem housing announcement. "We’ve seen these kinds of announcements before."

Defense Secretary Bob Gates, meantime, forcefully countered Netanyahu's contention in New Orleans that international Iran sanctions are not effective and that the only way to pressure Iran is to threaten military action.

"I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the action that it needs to end its nuclear weapons program," Gates said in Australia on Sunday.

"The simple paradox is this: If the international community led by the United States hopes to stop Iran's nuclear program without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action," Netanyahu told the conference Monday.


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