Jewish Community Relations Council Urges Obama Administration
to Defuse Tensions With Israel and to Begin “Proximity Talks” Without Delay

For Immediate Release    Contact Alan Ronkin (617) 480-5343

(Boston, March 16)

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston expresses its concern over the strong condemnations of Israel that have come from the Obama Administration in recent days.  As Prime Minister Netanyahu has noted several times, the timing of the announcement regarding the building of new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo suburb of Jerusalem was regrettable and was in no way intended as a snub to Vice President Biden during his otherwise successful visit to Israel.  Given the deep and longstanding relationship as well as the common values and interests between Israel and the United States, it is inconceivable that any Israeli government would intend to disrupt that relationship.  Unfortunately, this incident has provided ammunition to those who would seize any and every opportunity to criticize Israel and try to undermine her strong ties to the United States, as well as those who seek to prevent a return to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. 

The recent disclosure by Israel of its intention to build additional housing units in eastern Jerusalem at a future date does not contradict its announced commitment to freeze settlement building for a limited period, and a cessation to building in Jerusalem was never a condition of the proximity talks. Israel has always claimed a right to build in its capital city.

We are encouraged that after a long period during which the Palestinian Authority has refused to return to the negotiating table, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had indicated a willingness to participate in the “proximity talks” proposed by the United States. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeated many times that the Israeli government is prepared to re-start direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without preconditions at any time.  We urge the Obama Administration to resist those who seek to use this incident as a pretext to harm the US-Israeli relationship and the peace process, and to insist that the proximity talks with the Palestinian Authority begin without further delay.  The shared interests of the United States and Israel to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as the prevention of the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, point to the urgent need to move beyond the current dispute.