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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ramat Shlomo to pay the price?

Prime Minister Netanyahu notified President Obama over the weekend once again that Israel will not freeze construction in Jerusalem. But it's a lie. Netanyahu has made the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood into the sacrificial lamb for the 'freeze' (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Talks between the Obama administration and Mr. Netanyahu's government had largely been frozen since the White House meeting. But over the weekend, Mr. Netanyahu's government conveyed to White House officials its most substantive response to Mr. Obama's request, including the refusal to end construction in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem includes some of the holiest places in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Israel captured the area from Jordan in 1967's Six-Day War. It has been in dispute ever since, and the Palestinians covet it as the capital of their future state.


U.S. officials involved in the diplomacy said they don't see Mr. Netanyahu's position as the end to negotiations. They noted that the Israeli prime minister did agree to take nearly a dozen measures that could underpin new peace talks.

Among those steps: The release of some Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails; the easing of the flow of goods into the Gaza strip, and the removal of more roadblocks in the West Bank.

Israel's government also said it would commit to expanding the area of responsibility for Palestinian security forces operating in the West Bank, as well as to discuss detailed issues of borders and the status of Jerusalem in any new round of negotiations with the Palestinians, which take place either directly or through a U.S. mediator.

One specific measure that could also aid the peace process, U.S. officials said, was Israel's stated willingness to end construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo for two years.


U.S. officials said the refusal to freeze construction in all of East Jerusalem could still serve as a barrier to new negotiations with the Palestinians. They also said that some of the new concessions made by Israel were nearly identical to a list Israel has already provided twice to the White House in recent months but has yet to follow through on.
And then there's this little tidbit at the end:
U.S. officials said Mr. Netanyahu's government has been communicating much of its position through the White House's senior Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, at times bypassing the Obama administration's special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell.

That decision has been interpreted by some in the administration as an attempt to sideline Mr. Mitchell in favor of Mr. Ross, who has advocated U.S. cooperation with Mr. Netanyahu, rather than confrontation. Mr. Ross has publicly taken positions in line with Mr. Netanyahu's government, particularly the centrality of stopping Iran's nuclear program as a means to underpin Mideast peace efforts.
Except that Israel Radio just reported that using Ross was Israel's idea.

The Jerusalem Post reports that George Mitchell will arrive in Israel on Thursday night. It remains to be seen whether the 'Palestinians' will come back to the table.

I'm disgusted about Ramat Shlomo being made the sacrificial lamb. It's an overcrowded neighborhood with young couples living in tiny single rooms that were originally intended for storage. Netanyahu probably figures that since it's an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, no one will protest. Wait until he finds out how many Likud members live there.

Obviously, Netanyahu was trying to give enough 'yeses' so that the 'noes' wouldn't be noticed. He failed. And the precedent of freezing construction in a Jewish neighborhood that is nearly surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods and that has strategic military value is outrageous.


At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feet of clay.

At 6:17 PM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

This is death by a thousand cuts. Obama demands it all and then "settles" for a building moratorium in Ramat Shlomo -- for the time being. When the Palestinians still refuse to return to the table, a freeze in another community will be demanded. Then another, and another. By September when the original freeze is suppose to end, Netanyahu will have agreed to two-year moratoriums all over Jerusalem.

Note the duration: two years -- precisely the period Obama and Fayyad have stipulated for a Palestinian state to come into existence.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger יונתן said...

The minute we agree to any outside limitations on Jerusalem, we have effectively put the entire city up for grabs. I sure hope this report is off base.

At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ramat Shlomo for air space clearance?

Helluva deal if it is.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ramat Shlomo won't have any new building for at least that long even if the entire planning process could be completed more quickly. So Israel isn't giving the US anything it hadn't already demanded - but I don't think any one in Israel expects the latest round of Israeli concessions to restart the proximity talks.


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