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Why the Outcry over Jewish Building in Jerusalem?


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Criticism over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's authorization of new housing units in Jerusalem drew the usual outcry from the usual sources.

The 1,060 new apartment homes are slated for Jewish neighborhoods outside the so-called green line, the pre-1967 armistice lines.

These are neighborhoods, not settlements, but opponents of Israel often refer to any neighborhood outside the 1948 armistice lines as "settlements" in "east Jerusalem," which the Palestinian Authority envisions as the capital of its future state. 

P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, while the State Department expressed its deep concern over Netanyahu's decision.

"Moving forward with this sort of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace," State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki told reporters.

Criticism Distances Peace

Netanyahu responded to the criticism Tuesday at a cornerstone-laying ceremony for Ashdod's new southern port.

"I have heard a claim that our construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem makes peace more distant. It is the criticism that is making peace more distant. These words are detached from reality," Netanyahu said.

"They foster false statements among the Palestinians. When Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] incites to murder Jews in Jerusalem, the international community is silent, and when we build in Jerusalem they are up in arms," he continued.

"I do not accept this double standard. Just as the French build in Paris and the English build in London, Israelis build in Jerusalem. We will continue to build in Jerusalem and we will continue to build here in Ashdod," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah, who just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Israeli-Jordanian peace accords, also called for U.N. intervention.

Despite his close working relationship with Netanyahu, the Hashemite king lives with a population that's 70 percent Palestinian. Besides that, he has the rest of the Arab world to consider.

Israel Radio reported that opposition leader and Labor Party head Yitzhak Herzog suggested Netanyahu was out of touch with the people, though his remarks don't jibe with the latest polls.

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely disagreed. She said Israelis didn't elect Netanyahu to please the rest of the world.

'Full Right to Build'  

At Monday's opening of the Knesset's winter session, Netanyahu vigorously defended the decision.

"There is a broad consensus among the public that Israel has the full right to build in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and in the settlement blocs. All Israeli governments have done that over the past 50 years," Netanyahu told the nation's lawmakers. "It is also clear to the Palestinians that these places will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future accord."

Still, many who support Israel believe the world sets a different standard for the Jewish state.

"There are some people for whom there is no good time to build homes for Jews in Jerusalem or other parts of the country, and if it were up to them, we would not have built a single home for the past 65 years because the time is never good," Netanyahu continued.

"Should we give up our existence?" That will never happen," he answered.

"For thousands of years Jews have prayed, 'Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem.' And you say to us not to build, not now. If not now, then when? The answer is never," he said. "…we build today as all Israeli governments have built."

In Israel, one often has the uncanny feeling that today's headlines are recycled -- the same news that's been making headlines for decades.

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