The office of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced July 6 that it expected approval for the construction of 800 new housing units in neighborhoods across the Green Line, but the statement received very little attention. The White House has not condemned the move, even though Barkat said in his statement, “Construction in Jerusalem is necessary, important and will continue in full force so as to enable more young people to live in Jerusalem, build their future there and strengthen the capital of Israel.”
The plan includes the Jewish neighborhoods of Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yaakov, Ramot and Gilo, in addition to the construction of 114 housing units in East Jerusalem. Still, this number is minuscule, considering the housing crisis in the city’s Arab neighborhoods, and certainly when compared to the planned scope of construction in its Jewish neighborhoods.
Netanyahu’s office was informed of the construction plan and gave it the green light, so that this was not a case of Barkat taking advantage of the situation. The procedure for updating the prime minister went into effect in 2010, during the Barack Obama administration. It was instigated by a serious crisis that broke out between Netanyahu and the White House, following an announcement that construction of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem had been approved. That announcement was made on the day that Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel for an official visit in March 2010. The Americans were furious. Netanyahu claimed he knew nothing about it. To appease the Americans, he ordered the creation of a committee to investigate the chain of events that led to the approval.
Tracking Netanyahu’s attitude toward construction in the settlements ever since he was elected in 2009 is a fascinating exercise. It reveals that he adopts the same tactic time and again, maneuvering between the Israeli hard right and the US administration.
Unlike the chairman of pro-settlement HaBayit HaYehudi, Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu is not an ideologue who advocates construction in the West Bank. Nevertheless, as leader of the right, he is expected to show that he identifies with the settlement enterprise and is taking action to support it. On the other hand, Netanyahu is also well aware of how sensitive the international community and the United States in particular are to anything to do with construction across the 1967 Green Line, which is considered detrimental to the implementation of a two-state solution.
During the Obama administration, the White House showed zero tolerance toward construction in the settlements. For his part, Netanyahu agreed to freeze construction in the West Bank a as proof of how serious he is to advancing the idea of a two-state solution, as he declared in his Bar Ilan speech in 2009. As far as the right was concerned, it was nothing less than a disaster.
The freeze lasted 10 months, during which Israel kept its commitment. Even after that period, however, Netanyahu continued to act in a balanced manner. He showed restraint and would not allow a frenzy of construction across the Green Line.
The prime minister is using the same tactic today, during the Donald Trump administration. With the end of the Obama administration, the settler right, led by Bennett, called for a new wave of construction and annexation in the territories, arguing that Trump was pro-settler and that this was a historic window of opportunity, which they would probably never see again. To their chagrin, Netanyahu was unwilling to remove all restraints. He showed moderation, even before Trump asked him to do so.
Right after Trump’s inauguration, the Municipality of Jerusalem took the symbolic step of approving the construction of 566 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. It was a measured step, taken with Netanyahu’s knowledge. Several weeks later, Netanyahu took steps to block a law proposed by Bennett to annex the settlement town of Maale Adumim by presenting the Cabinet with plans to build new housing in the settlement blocs. At the time, he explained that it was important that the Israeli government not surprise the new US administration with an annexation proposal. Bennett was appeased and Netanyahu scored another successful maneuver to his credit.
Netanyahu and Minster of Defense Avigdor Liberman later approved the planning and construction of 2,500 housing units in the West Bank. Nevertheless, settlement umbrella organization the Yesha Council responded that the program was deceptive, as it failed to meet the settlers’ needs. Once again, they called on the government to approve all construction plans already on the shelf and to release construction tenders throughout the entire territory of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
From his perspective, Netanyahu once again showed his commitment to construction in the settlements. At the same time, however, he made sure not to get carried away. He restrained himself even before Trump asked him to do so explicitly, during the prime minister’s visit to the White House in February. “We will make an effort and assess it,” Netanyahu responded to Trump at the time.
One month later, the Cabinet approved the construction of a new settlement, the first in two decades, for the Amona settlement evacuees. At the same time, Netanyahu notified his ministers of the marketing of 2,000 housing units out of the 5,700 units planned for the West Bank.
As a result, the White House said that Trump expressed his concerns about the settlements both publicly and privately. Netanyahu got the message and immediately presented his Cabinet with the understandings he had reached with the US administration to restrain construction in the settlements. At the time, his office announced that in consideration of the president’s positions, Israel would take significant steps to limit construction sites beyond the existing allotted to construction in the settlements, all in an effort to advance the peace process. Furthermore, it was announced that Israel would not allow the creation of any new illegal outposts.
Netanyahu informed his Cabinet about the new policy, which took the position of the US president into consideration. He stressed to his ministers that the Trump administration will be keeping close tabs on its implementation and that “the policy of restraint should be implemented. We should not try to deceive the Americans, because they know about every house that is built in the settlements.”
In advance of Trump’s May visit to Israel, Netanyahu’s office even ordered that a discussion about construction in the settlements be postponed to avoid a conflict with the Whitehouse.
So far, Netanyahu has managed to maneuver successfully. He can use the pressure applied to him by Bennett to show the Americans how complicated his situation is, given the demands of his right-wing coalition partners. At the same time, in dealing with the settlers, he uses Trump’s demand to restrain construction and explains why he must act responsibly. He really is a whiz at survival.
Trump hails ‘big week’ for historic move; ‘Congratulations to all,’ he tweets ahead of May 14 opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gives a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 11, 2018, ahead of its opening on May 14 (Screenshot)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited,” Friedman said in a video posted on the embassy’s Facebook page. “We have the official seal of the United States embassy. We have the dedication plaque. They are covered right now, but on Monday they are going to be unveiled.”
‘Next time in Jerusalem,’ jubilant Barzilai yells after victory; ‘Toy’ marks Israel’s 4th win; hundreds jump in Rabin Square fountain to celebrate; PM calls her ‘best ambassador’
Netta Barzilai after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP/ Francisco LEONG)
Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in two decades Saturday as singer Netta Barzilai clucked and bucked her way to the top of the international song contest with women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”
Backed up by three dancers, her trademark side buns featuring stripes of pink dyed hair to match her pink-and-black outfit, Barzilai busted her way through “Toy” on stage in Lisbon, Portugal, punctuating her singing with her trademark eye rolls and chicken dance moves
Quoted by US president one day, hosted by Russia’s president the next, PM is on a high, including in the polls. But will this encourage his more divisive tendencies?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
JTA — On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu began his week by meeting his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to finalize the commercial export to Europe of Israeli gas that he has pushed to exploit for about a decade.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from nuclear deal with Iran was widely seen as a coup for Israel’s prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal.
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
While US policy-makers are trying desperately to stabilize Afghanistan, a shift is being orchestrated by China.
The Chinese evidently see their role in Afghanistan as the “good cop” versus the U.S. role as “bad cop.” Like Pakistan, China seems to view the Taliban as the political opposition, not as a terrorist organization, and has offered itself as an intermediary to negotiate the departure of the U.S. and, thereby, be in a position to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of Afghanistan as a client state of the China-Pakistan alliance.
Reuters/Ipsos set a new standard this week when it condemned its own polling as unreliably favorable to the president.
“This week’s Reuters/Ipsos Core Political release presents something of an outlier of our trend,” stated a paragraph that appeared before the press release on its latest polling even began.
“Every series of polls has the occasional outlier, and in our opinion, this is one. So, while we are reporting the findings in the interest of transparency, we will not be announcing the start of a new trend until we have more data to validate this pattern.”
For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.
This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”
What would happen if the world took Pope Francis’ advice (via a tweet)? “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war,” said the pontiff.
While on the surface, the disappearance of all weapons might suggest the inability to do violence, in reality, it would mean the certain annihilation of the West as a civilization.
When a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the police after two black men refused to leave, the chain of events ended with the burnt taste of the overpriced coffee chain colluding with anti-Semitism.
Starbucks reacted to the brief arrest by blaming the police, but Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is African-American, initially said that his officers, “did absolutely nothing wrong”. But then he was forced to offer a bewildering apology to the arrested men, the officers and the entire city.
“It is me who in large part made most of the situation worse than it was,” he announced.
“Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest, and your grape harvest will last until the time you plant. You will have your fill of food, and you will dwell securely in your land” (Vayikra 26:5).
This blessing is promised to the People of Israel on condition that, as a unified nation, they observe the laws of the Torah and live by its spirit. Its promise is quite surprising. Not only will the Israelites have plenty to eat but, as the verse clearly indicates, the Jews will experience an overflow of food. The first season, when produce is brought to the threshing floor, will last until the days of the grape harvest, which in turn will continue into the planting season.