With Vice President Joe Biden scheduled to land in Israel Tuesday evening, the far left Peace Now organization is looking to stir up tensions between the US and Israel.
Biden’s trip comes exactly six years to the day since he last arrived in Israel in 2010. What had been intended to be a constructive and cordial inaugural visit to the Jewish state for the new Obama administration exploded into a diplomatic nightmare when US officials reacted furiously to approval by a Jerusalem district planning commission to the expansion of the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
The Vice President harshly condemned the announcement, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton berated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during a 43-minute phone call.
The housing development, which was planned for 1,600 homes within the existing Jerusalem neighborhood, was shelved for years. In May, 2015, however, final approval was given for construction in Ramat Shlomo.
In light of the 2010 dustup, US officials have worked strenuously to prevent a repeat, circumventing the normal diplomatic channels and calling directly to Jerusalem city council officials and business leaders to freeze building plans for the Vice President’s upcoming trip to Israel. The officials noted, however, that housing projects intended for Arabs, however, “would receive their blessing”.
Netanyahu has also pressured Israeli officials to hold back on housing announcements, telling Knesset members to delay plans for construction in Ma’ale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem.
Peace Now, however, is aiming to create the very diplomatic tensions leaders in both Israel and the US have been looking to avoid. The group is working to publicize construction in Ramat Shlomo, the bone of contention during Biden’s last visit.
The organization has distributed pictures of work being done in the area, claiming Netanyahu purposely advanced the project to coincide with Biden’s second meeting in an effort to humiliate the Vice President.