Hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fired back at the United States’ criticism of Israel’s plan to build new homes in Jerusalem, Washington on Thursday came back with a response of its own.
Netanyahu had given a series of interviews to the foreign press, including one with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, in which he suggested that the U.S. should study the facts before it criticizes Israel over its construction.
"I think the important thing is to just get the facts right. I mean start with the facts," he told Mitchell.
Asked if he thought President Barack Obama had the facts wrong, the prime minster replied, "We didn't discuss it. I have to tell you, it was a generic (discussion) ... we didn't get into these specific instances."
But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki rejected Netanyahu’s claims in her daily press briefing Thursday, saying, “I think we have our information clear, and we responded to the facts on the ground.”
She stressed at the same time that “Israel remains an important partner, a security partner, a friend and ally. That has not changed.”
“I think we’re talking about what we’ve already seen to be the response from the international community to ongoing activities such as these,” said Psaki.
The backlash against Israel is mainly over a plan to build 2,610 new homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos.
The housing units were slated for construction since 2012 and were given final approval last week.
Psaki criticized the move on Wednesday, using unusually harsh language in doing so.
She said the step would send a “troubling message” and added the construction would “poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
On Thursday, France joined in on the criticism, with its Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius calling the project a “direct threat” to the two-state solution.