No one, it seems. The housings starts being announced now, presumably to be followed by a freeze on building in the settlements, satisfies neither the left, which is upset about the building, nor the right, which is upset about the freeze that is coming.
And it’s worse, even more duplicitous, than simply announcing new building to sweeten the news about the pending freeze: for it’s not actually new building at all.
Ehud Barak, in his role as defense minister, last night approved the building of 455 housing units in five settlement blocs: In Gush Etzion the settlement of Har Gilo, will receive 149 units and Alon Shvut, 12; Ma’aleh Adumim, will see 89 new units, and the small settlement Kedar, which is near Ma’aleh Adumim, 25 new units; Modi’in Illit will be provided with 84 units, the Agan Ha’ayalot neighborhood of Givat Ze’ev is to grow by 76 units.
And, finally, 20 units were approved in Maskiot in the Jordan Valley — which has special significance because it is intended for Gush Katif residents of Shirat Hayam who were expelled from their homes.
Barak additionally approved the construction of a sports park in Ariel and a school in Har Adar.
The catch is that most of what he approved today was already in the planning and had just been on hold until the defense ministry issued permits.
As Yesha Council Director General Pinchas Wallerstein explained, “In actuality, the defense minister isn’t authorizing even one house or one new contract, and isn’t issuing one new tender.
“…These aren’t new tenders or building permits [being issued], but the completion of permits and documents granted in the past.”
There is, I suspect, a way in which this type of behavior, which is blatantly and transparently intended to mollify pro-settlement people, actually makes them more angry. No one likes to be “had.”
I very very rarely agree with opposition head Tzipi Livni, but I do when she says, “[The] attempt at combining construction with freeze is slight of hand trick.”
Netanyahu’s biggest battle politically within the country is defeating his image as someone who is slippery and duplicitous — someone who cannot be trusted. I’m afraid he’s shot himself in the foot here and will have to pay for it later, at some point when trusting him becomes important.
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan said yesterday that settlers would “somehow break through” the freeze. “You can’t freeze a living body. What will happen now is an increase in activity on the ground. The settlements will not sustain a freeze.”
While National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) declared, “The decision to freeze opposes natural justice and harms human rights. There is no political wisdom in it.
Today Knesset speaker Ruby Rivlin was in Hevron to attend a memorial ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the Arab slaughter of Jews there. From that place, he told those gathered that, “The Land is ours by right, and we will not guarantee our existence with apologies and weakness. The lesson we have learned from Hevron is this. The Land of Israel is acquired by rights, and not by drying it up or freezing it.”
I rather like the comments, as well, of Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein, who called the prospective settlement “a major mistake.”
His concern is that any agreement to freeze settlement activity would be interpreted as an acknowledgement by Israel that the settlements are an obstacle to peace, and this simply is not so. “My fear is that the world will understand from this that even Netanyahu and the right wing believe that the settlements are temporary. It’s easy to press Israel to freeze settlement activity, but it contributes nothing to the peace process.”
With all of these comments, I would recommend that you read the in-depth analysis by Sarah Honig, “It’s not the settlements, stupid.”
For additional perspective, there is also “This is our place, so mind your manners,” by Cherna Moskowitz, wife of Dr. Irving Moskowitz (owner of the Shepherd hotel in eastern Jerusalem) and president of the Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation.
I have assiduously avoided repeating the rumors regarding an “imminent breakthrough” in an agreement with Hamas regarding the release of Gilad Shalit. Turns out that most of the rumors came from the Hamas side and that nothing is imminent. The only real news here is that Germany has replaced Egypt as the mediating agent.
I ponder, without answers, what it is that the Netanyahu gov’t might give to Hamas in return for Shalit that the Olmert gov’t was not willing to give. Precisely what is being negotiated? There has been talk of a lesser number of prisoners being released, or prisoners with blood on their hands being sent out of the area on release (which is a joke as they’d find their way back). And I only pray that this government holds tough, whatever the deeply felt pain of the Shalit family.
Danny Glover too? Gee, I always liked his acting. Seems that he and other no-nothing Hollywood types such as Jane Fonda (from whom I expect less than nothing) are boycotting a Toronto film festival because it celebrates the Centennial of Tel Aviv, which was “built on violence” by an Apartheid regime and sits on “contested ground.”
Shows just how far afield people can go when they are sanctimoniously self-righteous but actually have their information all wrong. They make a mockery of themselves by having picked Tel Aviv to protest about. For Tel Aviv is THE quintessential Jewish city, built on sand that was properly purchased. No Arabs lived there, and there is no contest in terms of who owns the land the city sits on.
But far be it from these people to miss an opportunity to protest against Israel. I’d like to imagine that they might be influenced by the facts, if they knew them. But the vast odds are that their minds are simply made up. An unhappy sign of the times.
(Thanks Judy S. and Steve I.)
As many of you may know, we are now in the middle of the month long Islamic celebration of Ramadan — which requires fasting and contemplation during the day, with food to be taken after sunset.
As his predecessors have done, President Obama held a Ramadan break-fast meal — called iftar — last week. What I strongly suspect is that his words to those gathered (and for the press) transcended those of his predecessors on this occasion:
He paid tribute to “a great religion and its commitment to justice and progress.” And then he explained that “The contribution of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country.”
Well… Obama is president of the United States, and the US is where I lived most of my life. But somehow I got the feeling that what he was describing was not the country I knew. For that matter, I’ve not encountered a great deal of Islamic commitment to justice and progress of late. Go know…
Also on Obama, see this unsettling piece by Anne Bayefsky of Eye on the UN: “Obama’s UN Gambit: King of the Universe and the Polls.”
“Looking for a quick and easy boost in the polls, President Obama has decided to go to the one place where merit bears no relationship to adulation: the United Nations. On September 24, the president will take the unprecedented step of presiding over a meeting of the UN Security Council.
“No American president has ever attempted to acquire the image of King of the Universe by officiating at a meeting of the UN’s highest body. But Obama apparently believes that being flanked by council-member heads of state like Col. Moammar Qaddafi — who is expected to be seated five seats to Obama’s right — will cast a sufficiently blinding spell on the American taxpayer that the perilous state of the nation’s economy, the health-care fiasco, and a summer of ‘post-racial’ scapegoating will pale by comparison.
“After all, who among us is not for world peace?
“Unfortunately, however, the move represents one of the most dangerous diplomatic ploys this country has ever seen…”
It has been announced that Hezbollah may get 10 seats in a proposed 30 seat unity government in Lebanon. More will follow on this, but know that it has great import: Once Hezbollah is part of the government, the entire government can be held responsible for aggression by Hezbollah. This has been proposed by prime minister-designate Saad Hariri and is not yet a done deal — we’re no longer looking at a renegade terrorist group.
There is as yet no comment officially from our government.