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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Netanyahu's balancing act on 'settlement construction'

The Netanyahu government continues its balancing act relating to 'settlement construction.' On Wednesday, the IDF advanced plans for 1,225 new homes in Judea and Samaria, including hundreds in Itamar and Bruchim, which are both outside the 'security fence.'

But the plans are now subject to a 60-day comment period, after which another round of approvals is needed. That other round of approvals has not been forthcoming. Not one new home has been approved over the green line - whether in Judea, Samaria or 'east' Jerusalem - since January of this year.
The plans’ advancement is consisted with the action of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s third government.

It has allowed the bureaucratic process of West Bank settlement building plans to continue in spite of a push by the United States to rekindle direct Israeli Palestinian talks, which have been largely frozen since December 2008.

But to help the American foster a climate for renewed talks it has agreed to a de-facto freeze on new tenders in West Bank settlements and Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhoods.  No new housing tenders have been issued over the pre-1967 since January, even though according to Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel there are thousands of such tenders ready for final authorization.

Zoning plans for 675 homes were deposited for review to the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria on Wednesday, including for 137 illegal homes that have already been built. Approval of the zoning plan would automatically authorize those homes. In addition the zoning plan calls for the construction of 538 new homes.
Netanyahu may think that he is threatening the 'Palestinians,' in effect telling them that if they don't come to the table, he can build more in Judea and Samaria, and there will be nothing they can do about it. But the 'Palestinians' are calling his bluff. They don't believe that Netanyahu has the courage to stand up to US Secretary of State John FN Kerry and to the opprobrium of the 'international community' by commencing construction in Judea, Samaria and 'east' Jerusalem. And they're not coming to the table until he gives an ironclad commitment to stop 'settlement construction' so long as the 'talks' are going on, which will of course be forever once that commitment is given (think Iranian nuclear talks).

What could go wrong?

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