BREAKING NEWS: The US State Department responded to the decision made by the Jerusalem Municipality’s Committee for Planning and Building on Wednesday permitting 558 new homes to be built in east Jerusalem. “Our position on Jerusalem is clear. We oppose any unilateral actions by either party that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem,” said State Dept. spokeswoman Jen Psaki at the daily press briefing in Washington on Wednesday. “We’ve called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations.” The decision to build new housing units amid contentious ongoing peace negotiations prompted a negative response from the Palestinians. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the moves a “deliberate provocation of the Palestinians to drive them to leave the negotiations.” “Israel is not only capable of sabotaging the talks, but it is flagrantly destroying the chances of peace and stability throughout the region,” Ashrawi said in a statement. Psaki also responded to a group of far-right Orthodox rabbis contention that “Kerry has declared war on God” during Wednesday’s press briefing.
“He’s not going to spend a lot of time worrying about words people are using against him,” she said. “His greatest concern about this is the impact they have or they could have on the process, that the words aren’t an attack on him, they’re actually an attack on the peace process itself.” The rabbis from the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel wrote an open letter to Kerry stating that he had declared war against God through his current mediation efforts between Israel and Palestinian negotiators, and said he must cease such activities to avoid divine punishment. In response to a question about a spoof video released by Israeli settlers criticizing Kerry’s efforts in the Middle East, Psaki said, “I think it goes in with what I’ve already stated about attempts to mis-characterize his record, his position, his positions on issues, his statements, how that is not an attack on him; that’s an attack on the process. And of course that kind of rhetoric we find unacceptable.” Jerusalem Post