Israel, U.S. Dispute Jerusalem Housing

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Tensions Rise After Obama Administration Official Is Quoted Disparaging Benjamin Netanyahu

The U.S. and Israel clashed over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s housing policies in Jerusalem, further inflaming years of tense relations between the two powers.

Mr. Netanyahu, responding to disparaging comments about him attributed to an Obama administration official in an American magazine, told parliament on Wednesday that he was being attacked “only because I defend the state of Israel.”

“Our top interests, utmost among them security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not the top interest of those anonymous elements that are attacking us and me personally,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

Recent Netanyahu government announcements over Israeli plans to build homes in parts of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians for a future state have provoked repeated criticism from the Obama administration. The latest plan announced this week for 1,000 new units in east Jerusalem stoked the most recent backlash, sparking angst in both Israel and the U.S. over the state of relations between the two allies.

In the U.S., House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) called for President Barack Obama to denounce the comments by an unnamed administration official calling Mr. Netanyahu a “chickenshit” and a “coward” in an Atlantic magazine article.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the comments “do not reflect the United States’ position and they do not reflect the personal views of the president of the United States.”

On Thursday, Mr. Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice will host her Israeli counterpart and other Israeli officials in Washington as part of a routine meeting that Mr. Earnest called “a testament to an unprecedented level of coordination and cooperation” between U.S. and Israel.

Still, moderate members of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition signaled their concern over the friction.

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