Pisgat Ze'ev, Jerusalem
Pisgat Ze'ev, JerusalemIsrael news photo

“Those who say we flustered [U.S. Vice President Joseph] Biden by building in Jerusalem do not understand that Jerusalem is ours,” says Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein. 

But commentator Nadav Shragai says that that’s the government’s fault. Shragai is an expert on Jerusalem and a former long-time writer for Haaretz; click here to read his recent definitive analysis of Jerusalem building plans, summarized on INN.

Edelstein, whose ministerial responsibilities also extend to hasbarah, or Israel advocacy, told Arutz-7, “People who feel we embarrassed Biden don’t understand our rights to Jerusalem. If someone thinks that in the framework of peace talks we will agree to split Jerusalem, he is mistaken. And whoever thinks that we will not build in neighborhoods such as Ramot and Gilo is similarly mistaken.”

Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser also clarified today that Israel will continue to build in all areas of Jerusalem.

Shragai, who also spoke with Arutz-7, says that the hubbub created by the PA, and Biden’s criticism of Israel, for building near Ramot is the result of the Israeli government’s misguided policies over the course of many years.

“When we built in Har Homa [several years ago],” Shragai said, “the Americans sufficed with a protest. But now that we have shown willingness to negotiate the division of Jerusalem, the U.S. adapts itself to our position; they feel they have a green light to exert pressure on us regarding Jerusalem.”

“Israel never separated Jerusalem from Judea and Samaria in terms of the talks,” Shragai accused. Some feel, however, that such as a disconnection would have implied that Israel had essentially given up on Judea and Samaria.

“In any event,” Shragai said, “the whole issue is just a tempest in a teacup, because the 1,600 units approved in Ramat Shlomo are still far from being built. There are still many months to go before the actual plans are approved, and then there must be tenders, and then the plan must still be approved by the Prime Minister’s Bureau… It will take a long while.”

“Netanyahu says there is no construction freeze in Jerusalem, but there is barely any construction to freeze! Jerusalem is crying out for new housing, and people are leaving the city; maybe 1,500 units are being built each year, when at least double that are needed.”

The American opposition to building in Jerusalem won’t stop in Ramat Shlomo, Shragai warns: “The Americans don’t recognize our rights to eastern Jerusalem [i.e., areas liberated in the Six Day War – ed.] at all – not in the north, south, or anywhere. As far as they’re concerned, even Ramat Eshkol is not ours.”