"I also appreciate the Administration’s effort to advance peace in the region. I know that this has been difficult and has required a great deal of patience, but I’m pleased that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit and we have to be persistent and purposeful in making sure that we get to those direct negotiations that will enable us to resolve this conflict.
"I look forward to working with President Obama, and with you and your entire Administration to forge an historic peace agreement in which the permanence and legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel is recognized by our Palestinian neighbors and in which Israel’s security is guaranteed for generations to come.
"Again, Vice President, my friend Joe, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Jerusalem. Welcome."
As Biden arrives in Israel, the government that Netanyahu heads announces 1,600 new apartments will be built in occupied East Jerusalem, notwithstanding the declared ten-month suspension of new settlement construction. Of course, there is plenty of weasel room because the suspension only deals with "new permits and new construction", whereas anything that was discussed, debated, considered, mooted, considered, delayed, contemplated is not considered new construction.
Still wiping the diplomatic spittle from his face, Vice President Joe Biden showed some appropriate backbone. Let's hope that the White House does not, once again, go all weak at the knees when the predictable circles declare that the U.S. denunciation unfairly criticizes "our only democratic ally...." The intial White House statement anticipated Biden's remarks.
Biden's apt March 9, 2010, statement:
"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict.The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, "we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."
[More info in follow-on Wapo coverage, in contrast to the limp coverage by NYT. Also see Biden interview.]
[Danny Ayalon: It is all about timing.
"The criticism was mainly about the timing of the announcement, and I told (U.S. officials during his visit to Washington) that it was poor timing, but it was not planned and it was a serious mistake which is currently being probed in Israel."]