The Obama administration is refusing to discuss reports that emerged early Thursday claiming that the White House is considering imposing sanctions on Israel for continuing construction on Jewish homes in Jerusalem.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dodged several questions on Thursday when confronted with reports that the administration had held secret internal meetings to discuss taking action against Israel for its ongoing building in East Jerusalem.
The classified meetings were reportedly held several weeks ago and included officials from both the State Department and White House, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, which first reported on the meetings.
The possibility of sanctioning Israel for its ongoing construction sends a signal that the Obama administration is willing to go further in its denunciations of Israel then any previous White House.
When asked to address the reports Thursday afternoon, Harf declined to take a stance.
“I’m obviously not going to comment one way or another on reported internal deliberations,” she said. “We’ve made clear our position on settlement activity publicly and that hasn’t changed.”
When pressed to address whether the White House has reached a point at which it believes its harsh rhetoric against Israel is not enough, Harf again demurred, stating that she would not “address hypotheticals.”
A White House National Security Council (NSC) official also would not comment on the report when contacted Thursday by the Washington Free Beacon.
News of the supposed meeting leaked to the press though Israeli officials who were apparently apprised of the discussion.
Senior Israeli officials told Haaretz “that White House officials held a classified discussion a few weeks ago about the possibility of taking active measures against the settlements,” according to the report.
The discussion about levying sanctions on Israel reportedly began after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s October meeting at the White House and the subsequent battle between Washington and Jerusalem over settlement construction.