Netanyahu: White House Needs to 'Get the Facts Right'
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama to address areas of tension in the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
It was the first meeting since the 50-day summer war, Operation Protective Edge, between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip.
Obama reportedly used the meeting to call for an end to Palestinian civilian deaths despite Israel's comprehensive clarification on the issue.
Netanyahu said he remains committed to a two-state solution "based on mutual recognition."
The two leaders also discussed Iran's nuclear capabilities, which Netanyahu called "a more important issue."
"You know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power. And I fervently hope under your leadership that would not happen," Netanyahu said.
The administration also criticized an announcement for 2,600 new apartment units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, saying it would distance Israel from her allies.
"The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Israeli government has moved forward with the planning process in a sensitive area of east Jerusalem," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
"This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, 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."
State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki echoed the sentiment, saying it would "call into question Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians."
In subsequent interviews, Netanyahu refuted the criticism, saying the White House should get acquainted with the facts first.
"You know, first of all, these are not settlements. These are neighborhoods in Jerusalem. We have Arab neighborhoods and Jewish neighborhoods," Netanyahu told NBC's Andrea Mitchell. "I think the important thing is to just get the facts right. I mean, start with the facts."
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also responded to the administration's criticism.
"I say this firmly and clearly: building in Jerusalem is not poisonous and harmful rather it is essential, important, and will continue with full force. I will not freeze construction for anyone in Israel's capital. Discrimination based on religion, race, or gender is illegal in the United States and in any other civilized country."
The mayor said the new housing units, approved two years ago, would "enable more young people from all sectors and religions to lie in Jerusalem and build their future here, thereby strengthening the capital of Israel. We will not apologize for that."
Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein angrily criticized Western leaders for their preoccupation with the Jerusalem construction.
"It's too bad that while the Islamic State is slaughtering, murdering, and threatening the West, everyone is interested in a few homes being built in Jerusalem," Edelstein said.
The speaker called Western reaction "Pavlovian."