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US to Israel: Build in Jerusalem for Arabs, but not for Jews

Ahead of Biden's visit to Israel, Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to prevent new Jerusalem housing projects.

David Rosenberg,

Biden on the attack
Biden on the attack

US Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Israel next Sunday, and the Obama administration is launching an all-out effort to prevent a repeat of the diplomatic flare-up that marred his previous trip in 2010.

In what is likely to be the last state visit to Israel by a top-level Obama administration official, Biden’s visit closes out a rocky relationship between Israel and the White House.

Perhaps the most publicized dispute in that period was the so-called “Ramot Biden” incident in March 2010, when plans for a new housing project in the haredi neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in Jerusalem were announced while Biden was in Israel promoting talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Biden issued a sharp condemnation of the plans, while then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton berated Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during a 43-minute phone call.

Today, with the memory of the 2010 dustup looming, US officials are pressing Israel not to build in "sensitive" areas of Jerusalem like Gilo, Har Homa, and Pisgat Ze’ev, NRG reported, citing a high-ranking US official on condition of anonymity.

“We don’t want another neighborhood in Jerusalem to be called ‘Ramot Biden,’” the official said.

But while the US is moving to block new housing projects in Jerusalem for Jews, the same official noted that of course “construction for Arabs would receive their blessing."

So desperate are Obama administration officials to prevent a repeat of the 2010 visit that they have set aside accepted protocol and expanded their efforts beyond the traditional diplomatic channels, appealing directly to local officials and public figures in Israel, including in the Jerusalem city council, calling on them to shelve new building projects in Jerusalem.