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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nir Barkat blasts Obama

This is a small country. If in the rest of the World they say that there are no more than six degrees of separation, in Israel there are no more than two. And so, it's inevitable that there are several people in my social circle who know Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, even though I don't know him personally. I have managed to miss at least two visits to my sons' school by him this year.

The longtime client/friend who knows him best served with Nir in the IDF and raves about him. According to my friend, Nir is scrupulously honest (a major problem with Israeli politicians these days, as you may have heard), loyal to his friends and to the men who served under him in the paratroopers, and a successful venture capitalist to boot (unfortunately, not a client of mine). Although Nir was elected Mayor under Kadima's aegis, he was up front from the start about where he stood on Jerusalem, and his positions about the goings-on in the city have been far closer to Prime Minister Netanyahu's than to those of Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. Therefore, it's not surprising to hear that Mr. Barkat has gone to Washington and has blasted the Obama administration from Capitol Hill.
Barkat's talking points, an aide told POLITICO: The U.S. would not ask certain religions or races to stop building in a city, so it should not demand the same of Israelis in East Jerusalem.

The Obama administration's demands that Israel halt construction in East Jerusalem as a precondition for negotiations, is “setting an obstacle for peace,” the aide said.

Stephan Miller, a spokesman to the mayor, said asking for a freeze is “an illegal demand in the United States, and illegal in the state of Israel” and “Jerusalem will continue to expand and grow for the benefit of all residents equally.”

Perhaps a starker preview of his message to Capitol Hill lawmakers came on Fox News Monday, when Neil Cavuto asked if the Obama administration was anti-Israel.

"I dont know," he said. "I dont know, we have yet to see. I will tell you in the next few months, in the next few years."


At 9:28 AM, Blogger Eliana said...

YnetNews has a top story up about Barkat denying that there is a freeze on construction in Jerusalem.

This should thrill the guy in the Oval Office:

Barkat denies housing construction freeze

Jerusalem mayor tells reporters in Washington there is no de-facto construction freeze in city's east, says cannot accept Palestinian control of any part of city, as this would be similar to placing Arab 'Trojan horse' in midst of Jewish community

-- He is so right but I suspect that Obama will be getting a 3am phone call about this shortly.

Thanks for the announcement, Mr. Barkat!

He is saying that the Israeli government was shocked after getting "slapped in the face" by the Obama administration so they have slowed the housing approval meetings down a bit but there is no freeze.

Barkat certainly says what's on his mind! :)

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Eliana said...

A YnetNews story from yesterday:

US officials: Barkat undermines talks effort

Senior administration figures tell Defense Minister Barak that Jerusalem mayor's conduct contradicts peace negotiation efforts. Barkat: Freeze on east Jerusalem construction 'illegal'

-- The Obama administration is more or less complaining that the atmosphere is supposed to be defined by Israel's utter and complete capitulation (G-d forbid) to mass murdering Jew haters and Holocaust deniers.

Obama wants Israel to get with the program. I'm really glad that Barkat is speaking up while in the U.S.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

It may not do much good since the Jerusalem freeze is supposed to run through September coterminous with the Yesha freeze.

But I give Barkat points for defending the city.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

I'm confused: AP news stories I'm reading here in America say that "Jerusalem officials" confirm that there is a de facto freeze. But Barkat says there isn't? Isn't he a "Jerusalem official"? Are the Jerusalem officials disagreeing with each other? One of them seemed to be saying that some necessary building committee had stopped meeting after Biden's visit and hadn't met since. That sounds pretty credible.

Is this some kind of "sending signals" thing that I just don't understand? In American conservatism, the thing to do would be to say that the higher-level government _has_ imposed a de facto freeze and to complain about that as loudly as possible, blaming them. But it seems that in Israel, the thing for Barkat to do is to say that, _since_ such a freeze would be illegal, in some sense it doesn't exist. That's a way of defying it, or something?

It's great that he's standing up to Obama. I just don't understand whether he's pretending that a problem doesn't exist that really does exist in the course of so doing.


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