The announcement of 1,600 additional apartments in east Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood was "obviously designed by some in Israel to undermine a peace process (Mideast envoy) George Mitchell finally got back on track," American Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday.
The announcement, which was made during his visit to Israel and the West Bank last week, drew harsh criticism from the US, which is set to mediate so-called "proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking to ABC News, Biden called the announcement "provocative," but added that the US and Israel need to "get over" the latest flare-up in tensions and insisted that the essential elements of the relationship between the two countries remain the same.
"Israel's security is undeniably in our interest to make sure it is absolutely secure," the vice president was quoted by ABC News as saying.
"And so the message is: We've got to get over this," Biden said. "Granted, I condemn the announcement made by that planning council. ... The irony is even that planning council acknowledging not a single new unit can be built at least for a year and maybe never will be built, it was provocative."
According to ABC News, the vice president denied a report that said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel's position on settlements puts US soldiers at risk.
"No, I never said that," the vice president said.
In the framework of efforts to lower the recent tensions between the two countries, US Secretary of State Clinton and Netanyahu spoke on the phone Thursday evening. The Prime Minister's Office said that Netanyahu clarified Israel's construction policy in Jerusalem and proposed trust-building measures in the West Bank to be adopted by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.