Netanyahu rejects international criticism over Jerusalem
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed international criticism of his government's plans to expand Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, saying that the city is rightfully his country's capital.
"Allegations made against the state of Israel must be grounded in fact," Netanyahu said, before adding: "Jerusalem is not a settlement - it's our capital", dpa reported.
Natanyahu was addressing the annual conference in Washington of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, but his visit coincided with a time of rare diplomatic tension with the United States.
The United States has been angry at Israel over the March 9 announcement of plans to build 1,600 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians envision as their future capital.
The announcement threatened to derail indirect talks between the Israeli and United States that had only one day earlier been brokered by Washington - a small measure of progress for President Barack Obama's administration on an issue that has been a priority. But it was also seen as an embarrassment for Vice President Joe Biden, who was in Israel when the plans were revealed and issued a strong statement condemning the decision.
Netanyahu made no mention of the construction plans nor did he mention the public rift that opened between the two countries over East Jerusalem.