The “proximity talks” are apparently on hold because of our announcement that construction will take place in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem, beyond the Green Line.
It is the Arab League that appears to be calling the shots — just as it was the Arab League that had given Abbas permission to go ahead. Early news today indicated that a key PA official in Ramallah said negotiations would start in spite of the building announcement. This was after PA leaders were appeased by not one but two condemnations issued by Biden — the second time when he was in Ramallah.
This was then followed by an announcement by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa at a Cairo press conference:
“The Palestinian president has decided that he does not intend to enter negotiations at this stage.”
How transparent can you get?
What we’re seeing at the moment is that Arab nations — Amr Moussa is from Egypt, a country ostensibly at peace with us — are being more intransigent than the PA. I wonder how Obama and company feel about this, in light of the appeals made to those states to support and encourage negotiations.
The official response from our government is that as far as we are concerned the talks are still on, because even though Moussa made that statement on Abbas’s behalf, there has been nothing forthcoming from Abbas himself.
There have been reports regarding Netanyahu’s irritation with Eli Yishai (Shas), Minister of Interior, who made that announcement about construction in Jerusalem. Here, too, I speculate. How well informed (if at all) was the prime minister about what his minister of the interior was going to say? Was he blind-sided by Yishai, or is this a good cop/bad cop routine, with Netanyahu putting on a good show of distress for the international community and most especially Biden?
What I observe is that regret is being expressed about the timing of the announcement — embarrassing our vice presidential guest and all that.
(See http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=47445 for the official explanation that the building had been planned for a long time, so that the fact that the announcement occurred during Biden’s visit was just a coincidence.)
But I see no regret (except on the left) with regard to the fact of the announcement. We’ve retracted nothing. So it seems to me that the timing is just a bit irrelevant. The Arabs would have made a fuss over this whenever it was announced.
So far, so good.
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein has it right: “Those who say we flustered Biden by building in Jerusalem do not understand that Jerusalem is ours.”
But actually, after he made the requisite condemnations, I’m not so sure that Biden was terribly flustered. He gave a talk at Tel Aviv University today in which — despite the criticism on the construction — he said, “[the US] has no better friend than Israel.”
I am not so foolish as to take these words at face value — fervently do I wish that the US would act in accordance with them. And still, the tone Biden set is more conciliatory than anything we’ve heard yet from an official of the present administration. Could well be that Biden’s assigned task when sent here was to soften us up, but he manages to convey a sense of connection to Israel. There’s certainly a contrast between the mood he radiates and the antipathy towards us that’s always just under the surface with Obama.
Daniel Pipes says Biden is more centrist than Hillary Clinton, who’s far left — but that Biden’s left-centrist approach isn’t going to succeed either.
Meanwhile, in the community of Elkana, in the hills of Samaria, tenders have been put out for building new neighborhoods. The actual building won’t be done until the freeze is over, but planning permits and such can be in place.
When asked about the timing of the announcement, Council Head Tzadok Zehorai told Ynet. “We are taking care of the residents of Elkana, and the prime minister needs to take care of Israel’s foreign relations.
“We do not belong to the US, but to the State of Israel. And as part of it, we have the right at the very least to start the planning process of a new neighborhood despite the building freeze.
“We have natural growth, but, due to a lack of housing, they move to other towns. We need 100 units a year in order to provide for natural growth.
“We are trying to find a management company that will plan, manage, and erect a residential neighborhood in the council’s borders.”
A project to build 280 apartments in Elkana was cancelled in 2007 because of criticism from then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But that was then, and, hopefully, this is now.
The Civil Administration responsible for enforcing that construction freeze has been very busy, and has generated a good deal of outrage. Foundations for buildings were destroyed last week in Efrat, Bat Ayin, Yakir, Salit, and Nachniel.
Most distressing was the fact that a foundation was taken out in Efrat that was for a synagogue. There is something inherently offensive about Jews destroying a synagogue, even if it is a synagogue in the making. And the fact of the matter is that public buildings were supposed to be exempt from the freeze, so this is particularly heavy-handed.
A request for a special exemption for this construction was pending when this action took place, under the orders of Defense Minister Barak. As Efrat Mayor Revivi explained it:
“The permit was given for the synagogue before the freeze, and after the freeze was issued, Netanyahu announced to the world that it did not include public buildings, and so we laid the foundations. We then received stop-work orders, and found that contrary to what Netanyahu had said, public buildings were not exempt. So we stopped working and submitted a request for a special exemption – and now Barak’s men come and destroy what we built.
“[While] Jewish construction is frozen and synagogues are razed, the Arabs continue tightening the noose all around Efrat with illegal construction on state lands that are designated for Efrat – yet against this, the IDF and Civil Administration do nothing.”
In the wake of the various announcements about construction past the Green Line, Barak needed (or thought he needed) to make a show of it as tough guy with regard to illegal building in Judea and Samaria during the freeze (even if he happened to act on something that is not actually illegal).
When Barak gets like this, he is big on inappropriate strong-arm techniques.
The Likud Central Committee will be meeting a week from today, as a result of a petition seeking the meeting –promoted some months ago by MK Danny Danon– that was signed by more than 20% of the Committee; the Likud court said it could not be ignored.
There is a push for a secret ballot vote at the meeting on a declaration, which reads in part:
“The Likud Central Committee strengthens and supports the residents of Judea and Samaria.
“The Likud Central Committee supports the continued construction and development of all parts of the Land of Israel including the Negev and Galilee, Greater Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi spoke last night at the Friends of IDF Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. From his talk:
“I stand before you today, not only as the Chief of the IDF’s General Staff, but as a warrior who has lost
many friends in the battlefield, and who has personally felt the agony of war. I stand before you today as an Israeli citizen, determined in the belief that my country, the nation-state of the Jewish people, has a right to freedom and security. But also, I stand before you as the commander of our nation’s guarding force. I’m full of pride in our army, and the remarkable way in which our soldiers fulfill their missions…
“I am telling you from this stage: We will triumph over those who seek to destroy us. We will win, thanks to the courage of our soldiers and their moral compass….
“Iran [is] the main threat to world peace, and gradually attempting to harvest regional instability through its proxies: Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Therefore the international community must stop the Iranian nuclear program for its own sake.
“All options should remain on the table. We are developing advanced weapons and technologies and increasing the number of military exercises and training, while raising reserve troops’ readiness for war. We are doing this to be ready for any threat – from near and far.”
Anti- IDF people (the ones Lori Lowenthal Marcus calls “the haters”) demonstrated outside the hotel, but so did supporters of the IDF, thanks to Lori’s planning of a counter-rally.