The State Department on Wednesday refused to answer why Israel ignores State's recommendation against building more settlements in east Jerusalem, and indicated it's not really sure why.
The Israeli government announced Wednesday that it had approved the construction of 200 more homes in east Jerusalem, a move some say will make it even harder to restart peace talks between Israel and Palestinians. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday afternoon that the U.S. is again "deeply concerned" by Israeli's announcement for that reason.
"We feel they will exacerbate the difficult situation," she said. Israel took control of east Jerusalem in 1967, but that move was never formally recognized by the U.S. government, and Palestinians want that part of the city to ultimately become their capital in a two-state resolution of the conflict.
Because Israel continues to build in east Jerusalem, a few reporters asked Psaki why Israel is ignoring the advice of the United States. Psaki dodged that question by saying many nations want Israel to stop building, and indicated that vocal U.S. opposition to the new construction might help bring Israel around.
But she was then pressed further by a reporter who asked, "If it means something to the Israeli government, why do they continually not do what you ask them to do?"
"Why don't you ask the Israeli government that question?" Psaki shot back.
Another reporter suggested that Israel is free to ignore the U.S. because the U.S. will not reduce its strategic alliance wit Israel, no matter how much building happens in east Jerusalem. But when asked if the U.S. was ceding its leverage with Israel in this way, Psaki rejected that analysis.
"I didn't suggest that," she said. "I think our word means a great deal in the international community."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted Wednesday as saying the issue is not new construction projects in east Jerusalem, but "our very existence and the refusal to recognize Israel, within any border."
Earlier this month, Psaki said the U.S. has no plans to propose a peace plan to either side, in part because the U.S. does not believe either of the two parties are serious about resuming talks. She indicated Israel's construction plans in east Jerusalem was a factor in that decision.