By Yaakov Levi
In response to criticism of the U.S. in an interview program Sunday, the White House on Monday slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that his criticism of American values was out of place. The criticism of America for its concern over Israel’s construction in Jerusalem was “odd,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
“When it comes to American values, it’s American values that led to this country’s unwavering support of Israel,” Earnest said. “It’s American values that have led us to fund an Iron Dome system” which protected Israeli cities from attacks by Hamas terrorists during Operation Protective Edge.
On Sunday, Netanyahu gave Israel’s side of the Jerusalem building controversy in an interview on the CBS news program Face the Nation. Netanyahu said that the criticism of Israel’s plans to build in Givat Hamatos, a Jerusalem neighborhood, was “baffling. It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” Netanyahu said. “The idea that we’d have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it’s anti-peace.”
Speaking on behalf of the Obama administration on Monday, Earnest said that the U.S. displayed plenty of “values” in its ongoing support of Israel. “It’s clear how American values dictate or at least guide our thinking” on supporting Israel, he said.
Also slamming Netanyahu was far-left group J Street, which called on Mr. Netanyahu to apologize and to withdraw his remarks. “For a foreign leader to characterize the principled opposition to settlements of every U.S. administration since 1967—the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama—as being against American values gives new meaning to the word chutzpah,” the group said.
The recent backlash against Israel is mainly over a plan to build 2,610 new homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. The housing units have been slated for construction since 2012 and were given final approval last week.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki criticized the move, using unusually harsh language. She said the step would send a “troubling message” and added that the construction would “poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
Netanyahu later fired back at the United States’ criticism, telling Andrea Mitchell of NBC News that the U.S. should study the facts before it criticizes Israel over its construction. “I think the important thing is to just get the facts right. I mean, start with the facts,” he told Mitchell.
Psaki later rejected Netanyahu’s claims, saying, “I think we have our information clear, and we responded to the facts on the ground.” (Arutz Sheva)