Some things in life are predictable – like the fact that every time a top U.S. official travels to Israel, the government in Jerusalem will announce some decision on settlement construction or East Jerusalem housing that angers the visiting Americans.
Vice President Joe Biden’s trip this week is no exception. No sooner had Biden started a visit meant to reassure the Israelis that the Obama administration understands their concerns about Iran and reservations about negotiating with vacillating Palestinian leaders than the Interior Ministry announced plans for 1600 new housing units in an ultra-orthodox East Jerusalem neighborhood.
So what was supposed to be a feel-good visit quickly turned contentious, with Biden issuing an unusually strong statement.
"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” he said. “The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”
As JTA reported, “until Tuesday evening’s statement, Biden’s visit had been going as planned, and he had said that there was ‘no space’ between Israel and the United States when it came to Israel’s security.”
The Politico’s Laura Rozen has a good early rundown on what sounds like a visit that may be going sour – fast.