JAKARTA, Indonesia – President Barack Obama has criticized Israel construction plans in East Jerusalem, saying they're unhelpful to the pursuit of peace.
The president said he was concerned Israel and Palestinian were not making enough of an effort to advance peace negotiations.
Obama's caution came as the Israeli government moved ahead with plans to build nearly 1,300 apartments in that disputed part of the city.
Israel has said the plans to seek public comment on the building plans were merely procedural. But the move comes on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday.
Obama said he did not receive a briefing on the new construction.
For a president who exhibited profound reservations about "meddling" in the internal affairs of Iran as its government stole an election and lethally suppressed freedom rallies, Obama demonstrates little hesitancy to publicly denounce Israeli domestic policy decision. This presidential tut-tutting of a key US friend is probably not what Congressmen and Senators had in mind when they wrote letters to the president last year urging a thaw in US-Israeli relations.
UPDATE: A reader reminds me that as President Obama was refusing to "meddle" in Iran, his administration was meddling hardcore in Honduras -- and doing so on behalf of the wrong side.
UPDATE II: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushes back:
A few hours later, Mr. Netanyahu’s office responded with a statement, saying that “Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel.”
The United States and Israel have well-known differences over Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu’s office said in the statement, adding that building plans should have no effect on the peace talks.