While Vice President Joe Biden's joint appearances with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today were friendly--and saw Biden pledge unconditional U.S. support for Israel's security--the VP apparently had no qualms about rebuking Israel's government while in the country.
Reacting to Israel's announcement of new construction in East Jerusalem, Biden issued a strongly worded statement condemning the move and standing by the Obama administration's opposition to new settlement construction.
With Israel and Palestinians just having agreed to indirect talks, Biden said that "the substance and timing of the announcement...is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the productive discussions that I've had here in Israel."
Biden's full statement, e-mailed by the White House this afternoon:
I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. 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. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict. The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, "we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."