Joe Biden condemned an Israeli plan to build hundreds of homes in disputed east Jerusalem today, casting a cloud over a high-profile visit that had been aimed at repairing ties with the Jewish state and kickstarting Mideast peace talks. His remarks came after Israel's Interior Ministry said it had approved construction of 1,600 new apartments, an embarrassing setback for Biden after a day of warm meetings with top Israeli officials.
"The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now," Biden said in a statement. "We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them." At a state dinner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden he was caught off guard by the ministry's announcement, a top Israeli official said.