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Friday, March 26, 2010

Agreement on Jerusalem construction? Color me skeptical

Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman said on Friday morning that the government had reached an agreement with the Obama administration that would allow Jewish construction in 'east' Jerusalem to proceed as it always has.
Nir Hefez, spokesman to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israeli radio early this morning that his government had reached an agreement with the Obama administration on housing settlements to be built in East Jerusalem.

As part of the "list of understandings" reached between the Obama administration and Netanyahu, Hefez said that while "The construction policy will not change. . .Israel is prepared to make additional steps in order to advance peace talks" with Palestine.
Color me skeptical. I don't believe Obama is suddenly giving in to us on Jerusalem construction. At a minimum, my guess is that the government is agreeing to suspend (public?) construction in predominantly Arab neighborhoods and maybe even more than that. Whether that 'understanding' will be formalized or whether Netanyahu will be allowed to save face by only implementing a de facto 'freeze' remains to be seen.

In the meantime, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with his cabinet on Friday afternoon (this post is being written several hours before you will see it) to review the 'understandings' that were ostensibly reached with the US. Those understandings are being kept in the dark - my guess is that if we are really lucky we will learn something about them in the last newscast before the Sabbath (at 6:00 pm) by which time many Israelis will have turned their radios off already.

The US is pressing for an answer by Saturday so that it can take that answer to the Arab League meeting in Libya.
Netanyahu's spokesman Nir Hafetz on Friday morning said that the prime minister reached understandings with Obama regarding continued construction in east Jerusalem.

In an interview with Army Radio, he added that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu agree on these issues and assessed that the inner cabinet will support the understandings reached in Washington.

"There are several steps that the Americans would like to see Israel take in order to restart the peace process. We returned from the US with the understanding that on one hand, the construction policy in Jerusalem will remain unchanged, and on the other hand, Israel is prepared to make gestures in order to resume the peace process," Hefetz said.

The main point of contention between Netanyahu and Obama, Hefetz confirmed, was the US demand that Israel extend the ten-month West Bank building moratorium.

Netanyahu's spokesman rejected reports that Obama demanded that the Palestinian Authority be given control over east Jerusalem's Abu Dis neighborhood.
You just knew that 'freeze' was going to be extended, didn't you?


At 6:06 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

David Horovitz just wrote in the Jerusalem Post that the real reason for the rift between Obama and Netanyahu is not about Jerusalem: it is rather about the US belief that Abu Bluff wants to make peace with Israel and can carry out an agreement he signs with Israel. Israel obviously disagrees with that assessment.

However the Jerusalem issue is or isn't resolved, one thing is clear: there won't be any agreement with the Palestinians in the future.

At 6:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its quite possible, the trade-off on Jerusalem would involve extending the freeze in Yesha... but I think we'll have to wait until Passover ends to hear what the Israeli government's answer is going to be and in the meantime, it is apparently in no great hurry to make life easier for Obama.



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