Israel will do what’s right for itself, despite US criticism, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Thursday after the State Department condemned the government’s intention to build 98 housing units for Amona evacuees in Shiloh, in the West Bank.
“Their statement is a bit disproportionate, to say the least,” Shaked told Army Radio. “The Middle East is burning, and the people of Syria are being slaughtered daily… I think the United States should concern itself with saving civilians in Syria and not with issuing harsh statements over a few housing units.”
When asked if Israel should ignore the State Department’s message, Shaked said: “We have to do what is correct for us. Of course we are allies and friends, of course we listen, but at the end of the day, the State of Israel must do what is right for itself.”
On Wednesday, the State Department released a statement saying it “strongly condemn[s] the Israeli government’s recent decision to advance a plan that would create a significant settlement deep in the West Bank.”
The message came on the same day that the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria approved plans to build 98 homes near the Shvut Rachel neighborhood of the veteran Shiloh settlement in Samaria.
Like Shaked, Deputy Minister for Foreign Policy Michael Oren brushed off American criticism.
“What happened yesterday with the American statement isn’t new,” he said in an interview with Army Radio. “This government has a certain view about settlements, and if we built in Gilo or Ramat Eshkol [in Jerusalem], the reaction would be the same. We have a dispute [with the US] and it didn’t start yesterday, it started in 1967.”
PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, said while he welcomed the US criticism, “we expect the United States to translate its statements into real action… the US must implement the necessary tools to end Israeli settlements.”
Knesset Land of Israel Caucus chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) and MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said that as the leader of the democratic world, the US should respect the decision of Israel’s democratic government.
“He who claims to be the leader of the free world should avoid attempting to trample Israel’s independence,” they warned, adding that Israel was “our land long before America belonged to the Americans.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the government’s decision to build homes in Shiloh to solve the issue of evacuating Amona is “a legitimate decision that does not break any commitments to the Americans.”
Former prime minister Ehud Barak, however, disagreed.
“The Americans are strange,” he said sarcastically on Army Radio. “They don’t cheat, and they expect that we won’t cheat them, and now they feel cheated.”
“Israel wants freedom to build in the settlement blocs and neighborhoods in Jerusalem, but the government is sabotaging that because it wants to keep building in isolated settlements,” he argued. “Why are we acting like children and not adults?” MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said the government is trying to provoke the US by approving construction after receiving the largest military aid package in history.
“After the warm and important things US President [Barack] Obama said in Israel last week [at former president Shimon Peres’s funeral], the government decided to turn its back on him,” Shai said.