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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Irony alert: Bibi scoring points for standing up to Obama

How's this for timing? The day after Housing Minister Ariel Atias admits that the government has placed a de facto freeze on housing starts in Judea and Samaria since March, the Washington Post (the Washington Post!) praises Prime Minister Netanyahu for resisting the Obama administration's pressure to freeze construction in the 'settlements.'
The most recent War and Peace Index poll, conducted monthly by Tel Aviv University, showed overwhelming support for Netanyahu's decision to oppose the White House on settlement construction and particularly on building in East Jerusalem. In recent weeks, organizations that favor building houses for Jews in all parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank have steadily become more vocal.

Four members of Netanyahu's cabinet visited unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank on Monday as a show of support, with Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, considered part of the prime minister's inner circle, saying that a reduction of Israel's presence in the West Bank would "bolster terror."

Ateret Cohanim, an organization active in promoting Jewish construction in Jerusalem's contested neighborhoods, this week hosted former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on a tour of projects -- including a cocktail party at the site of a proposed Jerusalem apartment complex that the Obama administration has singled out for criticism. Huckabee said the trip was arranged in recent weeks as part of a developing response to Obama's demands on Israel.

Members of Congress praised Netanyahu's first months in office on a recent tour of Israel, and even Obama allies such as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested that the onus was on the Palestinians to open talks with or without a settlement freeze.

"There have been some very positive things that have happened under Netanyahu, and I think that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas ought to take the opportunity to engage," Hoyer said in an interview last week with the Jerusalem Post while on a trip sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group. Despite the administration's concern that construction of Jewish housing in East Jerusalem neighborhoods could prejudge the future boundaries of a city that both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, Hoyer said Jerusalem "is a whole," adding: "My view is that it will remain whole."

"From the point of view of Israeli public opinion, so far Netanyahu has maneuvered quite successfully," said Tel Aviv University professor Ephraim Yaar. His surveys have showed support for Netanyahu in his clash with Obama and distrust of the U.S. president. In his July poll of 512 Israelis, 60 percent said they did not trust Obama "to safeguard Israel's interests," and 46 percent said he favors the Palestinians, compared with 7 percent who think he favors Israel. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Atias' admission to Israel Radio is mentioned toward the end of the report, giving the impression that it was added after the fact.
On Tuesday, Israeli government officials and anti-settlement activists confirmed that no new bids for government construction had been issued for the West Bank since November -- predating Netanyahu's election by several months. But anti-settlement group Peace Now said government-backed construction accounts for less than half the Jewish building in the West Bank. About 1,000 houses and apartments remain under construction, and there is a backlog of approved projects, the group said.
I can't confirm Peace Now's claim but in general they don't have a lot of credibility in my book. Still, the idea that Israel has totally frozen 'government' housing starts looks bad. The government housing goes to the young couples that have don't own an apartment, and they are precisely the people who are most likely to benefit from 'natural growth.' Netanyahu needs to stand up to Obama and go to the wall. If he does that, we Israelis will support him.


At 8:48 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its been an open secret there's been a quiet settlement freeze for months. The only question is whether it will be made official government policy. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

What could go wrong indeed

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just perused the comment board on this WaPo article. The flaring anti-semitism and liberal naivete is truly astronishing. One point bristling throughout the comment board was to the effect of "cut Israel off from Uncle Sam's $ and see how defiant Bibi is...those no-good Iraelis only survive because of the hand-outs from the American tax-payer...Israel contributes nothing to the world, just war, on our dime."

To that, I pose a question: to what extent does Israel still need aid support from the US? Would Israel be better off if it parted ways with the US govt till? Is the amount of aid really that much (as a % of GDP) today as it once was? From a symbolic perspective, extricating itself from the US dole would remove one avenue of israeli comdenation among the left (or so one would think).

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

I think the issue is also weapons and ammunitions. If Israel attacks Iran, it will need replenishment in spare parts for its planes, weapons, ammunitions etc...It is almost a given that Obama would not allow the sale of these supplies and so Israel would be weakened against any counteroffensive from Hizbullah, Hamas etc...


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