Mainstream media, led by Israel’s anti-nationalist newspapers, are trying to make a crisis out of previously approved homes for Jews in Jerusalem, Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser told Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday morning. Foreign media often take their cue on local issues from colleagues in the country they are covering.
Hauser stated that building for Jews in the capital will continue. He added that there is no crisis between Israel and the United States over the routine public notice of another stage in the long bureaucratic process before construction begins on more than 1,000 new homes in Har Homa in southern Jerusalem.
The Cabinet Secretary charged that Israeli media have taken the issue to the extreme and that discussions with the Americans are a lot more moderate.
Both Yediot Acharonot and Haaretz ran screaming headlines Wednesday morning that U.S. President Barack Obama said there are “enormous obstacles” in the diplomatic process, after he said several hours earlier that the building project is “not helpful” for his vision of the Palestinian Authority becoming a sovereign country.
However, several paragraphs later, readers discovered that the American president, visiting in his childhood country of Indonesia, told reporters, "I've been out of town, so I'm just seeing the press reports. I have not had a full briefing on Israel's intentions and what they've communicated to our administration."
Although President Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued separate and not surprising statements, repeating previous remarks, The New York Times Wednesday told its readers the two leaders had a "brusque echange."
Israeli media generally played down or did not report that the projects are not new. The homes for the neighborhoods of Ramot, on the western side of Jerusalem, and in Har Homa were approved six months ago. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach told CNN that last week's publication of details for the housing permits was advertised to allow the public to register any opposition to the construction.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, visiting in the United States, told Fox News on Tuesday that the issue is “overblown.” He added, “You are talking about a handful of apartments that really don't affect the map at all, contrary to impressions that might be perceived from certain news reports.”
The Prime Minister pointed out earlier in the day that Israel has been building in united Jerusalem for 40 years. “Construction in Jerusalem has never hindered the peace process,” he said. “Peace agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan, and for 17 years, diplomatic negotiations have been conducted with the Palestinians. These are historical facts.
The Har Homa neighborhood was built in 1997, when the Palestinian Authority did not make any demands for a halt to construction for Jews in parts of Jerusalem where it wants sovereignty.
The media reports in Israel and elsewhere have only parenthetically explained that the Har Homa project – like the Ramat Shlomo project that sparked a crisis earlier this year – were approved years ago. Announcements are made from time to time concerning advances in the process, which takes several years before construction actually begins.
Har Homa residents told Israel National News that in addition to the new units to be built, 13 synagogues also will be erected.
The Orthodox Union (OU) applauded Prime Minister Netanyahu for his “staunch defense of Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel and the Jewish People.”
OU President Stephen Savitsky and Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil stated, “Those who claim that Jewish activity in Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace are wrong; it is the denial of the Jewish connection to our holiest city and holiest sites that is an obstacle to peace. Jerusalem is, and must remain, the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel.”