WASHINGTON — The White House remained firmly behind its criticism of Israeli settlement construction and pushed back on Monday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s retort that the US rebuke goes “against American values.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointedly noted that American values were responsible for US support of Israel and for building the Iron Dome anti-rocket system to protect Israelis.
“When it comes to American values, it’s American values that led to this country’s unwavering support of Israel,” Earnest said. “It’s American values that have led us to fund and build an Iron Dome system to protect the lives of countless Israelis.”
“It’s clear how American values dictate or at least guide our thinking,” he added.
The issue centers on last week’s final go-ahead in Jerusalem for construction of a new housing development in East Jerusalem.
Earnest said that it has been long-standing US policy to oppose any unilateral action that attempts to prejudge the status of Jerusalem. He warned last week that the project would distance Israel from “even its closest allies” and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with the Palestinians.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu said he does not accept restrictions on where Jews could live, and said that Jerusalem’s Arabs and Jews should be able to buy homes wherever they want.
The prime minister continued that he was “baffled” by the American condemnation. “It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” he added. “The idea that we’d have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it’s anti-peace.” The interview was recorded last Thursday.