Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Jerusalem remained the Jewish people’s indivisible capital, showing no hint of compromise over settlements ahead of White House talks.
The Israeli leader made no reference to a US-Israeli spat over settlement building in Jerusalem in a speech to a pro-Israel lobby group, but his remarks made it clear that he would continue to support new construction in the contested city.
“The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital,” he said.
His remarks triggered a rousing standing ovation from the 7,500 delegates to the annual policy conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
A few lone protestors were quickly drowned out by the applause.
The Israeli leader’s comments came ahead of a scheduled meeting with US President Barack Obama yesterday — the first between the two men since Israel earned harsh US condemnation for unveiling new Jerusalem construction as US Vice President Joe Biden visited the region to support peace talks.
The announcement prompted a crisis in US-Israeli relations and speeches by Netanyahu and Clinton at the AIPAC meeting were being closely watched for clues as to whether the dispute had been resolved.
Clinton told AIPAC that Washington had to condemn the new homes in east Jerusalem as well as settlements in the West Bank in order to preserve trust and ensure Israeli-Palestinian talks go ahead as agreed. She said new construction “undermines” Washington’s role as a credible mediator.
She also urged Netanyahu to ease the humanitarian crisis in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli blockade, but she also told delegates worried about the open rift between the allies that US support for Israel’s security was “rock solid, unwavering, enduring and forever.”