The administration of President Barack Obama has refused to dismiss reports that it was examining sanctions on Israel for Jewish construction in Jerusalem.
SanctionsThe State Department did not deny a report in the Israeli media of secret discussions on the construction, consistently condemned by the administration.
“I’m obviously not going to comment one way or another on reported internal deliberations,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Dec. 4. “We’ve made clear our position on settlement activity publicly, and that hasn’t changed.”
Hours earlier, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the White House and State Department were considering sanctions on Israel. The newspaper, deemed close to the administration, said the meetings took place several weeks ago amid repeated U.S. denouncements of Jewish construction.
“White House officials held a classified discussion a few weeks ago about the possibility of taking active measures against the settlements,” Haaretz, quoting a senior Israeli official, said.
On Dec. 6, Vice President Joseph Biden criticized Israel’s approval of Jewish construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as plans to demolish the homes of Palestinian killers. But the vice president, addressing the Brookings Institution in Washington, did not raise the prospect of sanctions.
“We have tactical disagreements,” Biden said. “We have no difference in our strategic perspective.”
In October, senior White House officials warned of intensified measures against Jewish construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The officials also belittled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly for his opposition to Iran’s nuclear program.
“If these reports are true, this would mark a new era of unprecedented hostility from the White House against our strongest ally in the Middle East,” a senior congressional aide told the Washington-based Free Beacon. “It’s impossible not to notice the irony of the administration mulling sanctions on Israel while threatening to veto new sanctions against Iran.”