WASHINGTON – The State Department criticized the razing of homes in east Jerusalem on Wednesday and called on the sides to maintain restraint. "It is exactly the kind of unilateral action that undermines trust. It is the very kind of action that poses a potential obstacle to direct negotiations," State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley said.
After a pause lasting several months, house demolitions in east Jerusalem resumed on Tuesday. A total of six illegal buildings were razed in Issawiya, Beit Hanina and Jabel Mukaber.
During his daily press briefing, Crowley said that the only way to address the core issues "whether it's the status of Jerusalem, borders of a viable Palestinian state, security for the people of Israel, and resolution of refugees in these territories and throughout the region" was as part of direct negotiations.
US officials hoped that following President Barack Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week in which they discussed the possibility of moving forward to direct talks, Israel would abstain from such actions as house demolitions.
US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is scheduled to arrive in the region this week and hold an additional round of talks in an attempt to move ahead from proximity talks to direct negotiations.
"We continue to say, any steps that the Israelis, Palestinians or other parties take that change the facts on the ground, we think is unhelpful," the spokesman said.