Netanyahu: No Building Restriction in Capital

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not limit building in Jerusalem, despite harsh criticism from the Obama administration, the British government and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The most recent "crisis" arose over the government's approval of 900 new housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, home to 40,000 Israelis.

"The American administration's position on Jewish construction in Jerusalem is a symptom of its policy in general and on the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular," former Israeli embassy liaison to Congress Yoram Ettinger told CBN News.

"It's symptomatic of a goal to clip Israel's wings morally, strategically and territorially," he said.

"My hope is that the present Israeli government will adopt the legacy of former prime ministers [David] Ben-Gurion, [Levi] Eshkol and [Golda] Meir, who responded to unjust American pressure by furthering construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods," he said.

The Netanyahu government issued a statement on the building in Gilo.

"The Gilo neighborhood is an integral part of Jerusalem, just like Ramot Eshkol, Rehavia, French Hill and Pisgat Ze'ev," the statement read.

"There is broad national consensus on the matter. The construction in Gilo has been going on for decades, and there is nothing new in the current planning and construction procedures," the Prime Minister's Office stated.

Earlier in the week, the White House laid the ground work for their position in meetings between U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell and his aides and Israeli officials.

On Tuesday, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. was "dismayed" by the construction in Gilo, initially referring to the neighborhood as a "settlement" on the White House Web site.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas also referred to Gilo as a "settlement" established on land "conquered from the Palestinians in 1967," saying that the secretary-general "believes such actions undermine efforts for peace and cast doubt on the viability of a two-state solution."

And Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat responded in kind.

"We condemn this in the strongest possible terms. It shows that it is meaningless to resume negotiations when this goes on," Erekat said.

But Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said he could not fathom the U.S. administration demanding a construction halt "based on race, religion or gender."

"Israeli law does not discriminate between Jews, Muslims, and Christians or between eastern and western Jerusalem. The demand to halt construction by religion is not legal in the United States or in any other free place in the world. I do not presume that any government would demand to freeze construction in the United States based on race, religion or gender and the attempt to demand it from Jerusalem is a double standard and inconceivable," Barkat said.

Ettinger said history has shown that when successive Israeli governments stood up to unjust pressure from U.S. administrations, relations between the two countries inevitably improved.

"The true test of leadership lies in sacrificing a period of tension on the altar of long-term vision," Ettinger said.

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