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Monday, March 31, 2008

Shas says 'jump' and Olmert asks 'how high?'

Desperate to keep the ultra-Orthodox Shas party in his coalition, Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert promised the Sephardic party on Monday afternoon that he would permit the construction of eight hundred new housing units in the Judean town of Beitar Ilit just hours after their Ashkenazic counterparts at UTJ had told them to build in Beitar Ilit or leave the government.

This is what happened earlier Monday:
United Torah Judaism's six MKs, who were joined by settlement leaders such as mayor of Ma'aleh Adumim and former head of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip Benny Kashriel, called on Shas, the Sephardi haredi coalition member, to issue an ultimatum: lift the freeze on building in the Gush Etzion settlement or leave the government.

"If Shas were to demand today that building should resume in Betar it would happen," said UTJ chairman Ya'acov Litzman.

A Shas spokesman said in response that building in and around Jerusalem was "very important to Shas."

Under US pressure, the government has frozen construction on some 1,200 units in Betar Illit, a city of 35,000 and the fastest-growing town beyond the Green Line. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is presently in Israel to facilitate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and she sees Jewish settlement construction in places like Betar Illit as a major obstacle to the peace process. Meanwhile, on Monday, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai is slated to lead his 12-member faction in a tour of Betar Illit. He is expected to make a declaration about his party's commitment to building in the haredi city. But it is unclear whether Shas will threaten to leave the coalition over Betar Illit. Mayor Meir Rubinstein likened the freeze on building beyond the Green Line to "strangulation."

"This government is strangling us," said Rubinstein, who belongs to the Breslav hassidic sect.

"It is simply impossible to stop the building in places like Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Efrat and Givat Ze'ev," added Rubinstein. "We met here today to cry out to the government to allow the building to continue." MK Avraham Ravitz (UTJ) called for pressure on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"Olmert is not ideologically opposed to settlements," said Ravitz.

"We have to bring him to the point where he will be forced to tell Rice, 'I'm under too much pressure. I can't stop building.'"

Even Litzman, who normally avoids commenting on territorial issues, pointed out that the Torah sages who advise UTJ on political issues oppose the building freeze.

Asked if he was concerned that pushing to build in Betar Illit would hurt Israel's relations with the US, Litzman answered, "Rice is in favor of dividing Jerusalem. But the Torah sages are against it. We are not trying to arouse the anger of the US, we're just listening to our rabbis."
And here's what happened within the last hour.
In a move viewed by many as an effort to ensure Shas remains in his coalition, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Monday that the construction of 800 new housing units in Betar Illit would be approved.


"We don't hide our views on Jerusalem and major settlement blocs, we are being honest about everything throughout the negotiations," he added.

The prime minister dismissed reports that new settlements were being built. "We are not building new settlements, everyone must understand this. However, Betar Illit, for example is not a settlement."
I wonder whether Condi and the 'Palestinians' would agree with that. Somehow, I doubt they would.

Even Olmert must realize by now that there is no compromise with the 'Palestinians.' They want it all. Olmert and his foreign minister can go on continuing to pretend that the 'Palestinians' will settle for less than everything, but if they really believe that, they are fooling themselves. Do Olmert and Livni really believe the 'Palestinians' will settle for less than everything? Probably not. So why are they continuing the charade of a 'peace process' and risking Israelis' lives? Because the alternative is to tell Israelis the truth: that we cannot make 'peace' with the 'Palestinians' for the foreseeable future. And if Israelis heard that, they might remember the Winograd Report again, and that might mean bye, bye Ehud, Ehud and Tzipi.


At 5:29 PM, Blogger Don P said...

"And if Israelis heard that, they might remember the Winograd Report again, and that might mean bye, bye Ehud, Ehud and Tzipi."
One can only hope. As an American, and a die hard supporter of Israel, I am dismayed by the actions of the Bush administration in trying to appease the Arab world by forcing Israel to make concessions to a group of terrorists. Even worse are the reports that some kind of deal is in the works to divide Jerusalem. I am not Jewish, but I believe that Jerusalem should be Jewish forever. If they are going to give that away, they are agreeing with the palis that Jews have no legitimate claim on any of the land.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7:55 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its no accident the fastest growing Israeli communities are haredi or national religious. Ehud Olmert has found he needs Shas more than he needs Condi Rice.

Israel is undergoing a demographic sea change. The Winograd Report and the peace process maneuvers conceal just how profound that change is. In the end, Olmert may well be remembered as a footnote in Israeli history, as the man who paved the way for Israel's first religious Prime Minister just as he paved the way for Jerusalem's first religious mayor.

Israel's secular elites won't always run the country.


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