WASHINGTON – The dispute between Israel and the US surrounding the construction in east Jerusalem continues: State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday that US opposition to construction in east Jerusalem and settlements in the West Bank had not changed.
"We have made our views known to Israel," he told reporters. "Our views are not new either, that this kind of construction is the type ... of issue that should be subject to permanent-status negotiations."
Crowley added that "we are concerned that unilateral actions taken by the Israelis or the Palestinians cannot prejudge the outcome of these negotiations."
The Jerusalem housing project calls for construction of 20 apartments developed by an American millionaire in the Arab Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The spat emerged publicly on Sunday when Netanyahu told his Cabinet there would be no limits on Jewish construction anywhere in "unified Jerusalem."
"We cannot accept the fact that Jews wouldn't be entitled to live and buy anywhere in Jerusalem," he said, calling Israeli sovereignty over the entire city "indisputable."
Crowley's made the comments as Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren presented his credentials to President Barack Obama at the White House.
"This is an emotional moment for me and the realization of a dream," Oren (53) told Ynet after the ceremony.
"This is a great honor but also a great responsibility. I waited 40 years for this moment. I've dreamt of this position since I was 14-years-old," he added.
Oren dispelled talk of a crisis in US-Israel relations, saying "A crisis occurred when (president Dwight D.) Eisenhower threatened Israel with sanctions if it did not withdraw its forces following an attack on Egypt in 1956 (in response to the Arab country's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal), or when Israel went head to head with (president Ronald) Reagan over the selling of AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia.
"There have been serious disagreements in the past, but US-Israel relations are remarkable, and consist of hundreds of joint projects and interests," said the ambassador.
The international community considers Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to be settlements and an obstacle to peacemaking because they complicate a possible division of the city. Israel does not regard them as settlements because it annexed east Jerusalem after capturing the area in 1967. The annexation has not been recognized internationally.
Settlements on captured lands claimed by the Palestinians are a major sticking point in relations between Israel and the Obama administration. Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, in addition to about 180,000 Israelis living in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem is an especially volatile topic because it is the site of key Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites. The Palestinians want the traditionally Arab sector of the city to be the capital of their future state. The Palestinians have refused to restart peace talks until Israel halts all settlement expansion.
Associated Press contributed to the report