Obama's Revealing Remarks

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Speaking to reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday, President Barack Obama expressed deep displeasure at Israel's approval of 1,300 new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

But, in truth, none of the neighborhoods for which the latest housing tender was issued - Ramot, Pisgat Ze'ev, or Har Homa - are in the city's eastern sector. They are actually outside the 1949 armistice line, known as the green line.

"This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations," Obama said at a joint press conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at his side.

"And I'm concerned that we're not seeing each side make the extra effort to get a breakthrough that could finally create a framework for a secure Israel living side-by-side in peace with a sovereign Palestine," he said.

Obama made his statement not long after arriving in Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, where the president lived for a time during his youth.

The president's criticism of standard Israeli policy is not new.

Last spring during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel, Obama issued a similar statement opposing new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood between Ramot and French Hill. He called the plan an "insult" to the United States.

In November 2009, Obama labeled a tender issued for 900 housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, home to 40,000 Israelis, "very dangerous."

With each incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the same response: building in the nation's capital will not be limited.

But it doesn't seem to make any difference to the U.S. president's position.

Obama's steadfast opposition to longstanding Israeli government policy has caused some to label him the most anti-Israel president in U.S. history. Others wonder if his predisposition with the Islamic world has anything to do with his apparent lack of support for Israel.

It's no secret that most Muslim countries are not supportive of the Jewish state. Even Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab nations that have signed formal treaties with Israel, more often oppose the government's policies, especially with regard to Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

In Jakarta, Obama said his administration's efforts to reach out to the Muslim world "have been earnest and sustained."

"We don't expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed over a long period of time, but we do think that we're on the right path," Obama told reporters.

"That will be good for our security, but it will also be good for the larger cause of understanding between the United States and the Muslim world. I think it's an incomplete project we've got a lot more work to do," he said.

Still, some Israelis wonder if the president's goal "to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims," expressed in his June 2009 speech in Cairo and again in Jakarta, has influenced his position with the State of Israel.

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Tzippe Barrow

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From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.