JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastised the European Union on Thursday for being what he called "hypocritical" in its criticism of Israeli building in biblical Judea and Samaria (aka, the West Bank).
Speaking to foreign journalists at the annual Government Press Office 'New Year's Toast with the Prime Minister' in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Israel made a great sacrifice in releasing terrorists from jail as part of goodwill gestures to coax Palestinians back into U.S.-sponsored peace talks. Everyone knew that in exchange Israel would continue building new housing units in Israeli communities in the disputed areas, he said.
"We're keeping in line exactly our understandings that we undertook in the beginning of the talks," Netanyahu said.
"It was very clear that Israel was doing something very, very difficult…to release these terrorists, but it was equally clear that Israel undertook no restraints on construction and it was understood," he said.
Netanyahu said that to say the Israeli building was hampering the talks they're forgetting it was part of the deal. He added that the settlements are not an "obstacle to peace" and it's a "bogus claim" to say so.
"I think that this is hypocritical," he said.
"Our ambassadors to the EU are now called in because of this, the construction of a few houses. When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about the incitement that calls for Israel's destruction? When did the Palestinian ambassadors get called in to hear complaints about the fact that security officers in the Palestinian security forces are participating in terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis?
"Palestinian state-run television, school books and other activities regularly teach children that Israel is the enemy and they should work to destroy it. They also delegitimize Israel's right to exist but the international community doesn't complain about it.
"I think it's time to stop this hypocrisy. I think it's time to inject some balance and fairness into this discussion. Because I think this imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn't advance peace. I think it pushes peace further away," Netanyahu said.
"It tells the Palestinians: You can basically do anything you want, say anything you want, incite any way you want, and you won't be held accountable," he continued. "And Israel that takes tremendous efforts to preserve the peace and fight terrorism for the benefit of both Israel and Palestinians alike, it always gets criticized. That's not good and doesn't advance peace."
Netanyahu also said he'd had an "excellent" meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Thursday in Amman, where the two leaders discussed recent developments in the Israeli-Palestinian talks.
The relations between Israel and Jordan are based on peace and security, he said, and key to any agreement that Israel makes in the future.
"We all want to see the secure border, that quiet border that we have between us continue to be quiet and secure and tranquil," the prime minister said.
Palestinians want to take over the Jordan Valley between Israel and Jordan as part of a final agreement, but Israel (and some say Jordan) want Israel to remain there as a security buffer.