Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The blame game

I can recall traveling to the Jewish neighborhood of Ramot (also known as Ramot Alon) in 1978. There was not an Arab in sight. At the time, Ramot was small - today it is much larger. But the closest Arab village is barely in sight and only from a small portion of Ramot. The neighborhood is huge.

Har Homa (also known as Homat Shmuel) was opened in 1996, and today houses over 4,000 families. It was built on vacant land on the southern outskirts of the city. Along with Ramat Shlomo, it is the only large-scale, reasonably priced (i.e. non-luxury) housing built in Jerusalem since the 1980's. We have a severe housing shortage in Jerusalem.

On Friday, an approval was granted for an additional 1,300 housing units in Ramot and Har Homa. It doesn't mean that construction will start tomorrow. It could take months or even years. And once construction of a new neighborhood starts, it's usually 2-3 years until people start moving in. Nevertheless, the US, the 'Palestinians' and the Europeans are making noise about Israel approving new construction in these neighborhoods in Jerusalem, which under any 'final settlement' scenario discussed before President Obama took office have been included in Israel.

The response should be, "Jerusalem is our capital city, these are existent Jewish neighborhoods in the city and there is nothing to be discussed here. We always said explicitly that we would not freeze building in Jerusalem." But instead, government ministers are playing the blame game and trying to set each other up as the fall guy.
Mr. Netanyahu is in New Orleans to address the Jewish Federation of North America's General Assembly. On Sunday, he met with Vice President Joseph Biden in the city.

A similar announcement during Mr. Biden's visit to Jersualem last year, of Israel's intentionplan to build 1,600 units in another East Jerusalem development, plunged U.S.-Israel ties into one of its worst crises in decades.

After that incident, which Mr. Netanyahu said occurred without his prior knowledge, the prime minister's office quietly put out orders to government bureaucrats that any housing announcements in East Jerusalem required the approval of Mr. Netanyahu's military attaché, Maj. Gen. Yochanan Locker, said Jerusalem municipality officials and Western diplomats.

Mr. Netanyahu's office signed off on the latest settlement announcement, a senior Jerusalem municipality official said. A senior aide to Mr. Netanyahu declined to comment on whether or not the prime minister had known about the announcement ahead of time.

"Nothing in East Jerusalem can be approved before the prime minister's office approves it," said the official. "That's the regulations since the last Biden visit."

The Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for advancing planning for new housing units, is controlled by Eli Yishai, head of the religious Shas Party. Mr. Yishai is facing an internal challenge to his leadership of the party and analysts say he is trying to fend off that challenge by advocating increasingly hard-line positions.
YNet adds:
An Israeli official addressed the US criticism of east Jerusalem housing construction permits, saying that "There is no doubt that the finger of blame is pointed at Eli Yishai and the Interior Ministry. They are the ones responsible for announcing the permits."

The official also noted that as per an earlier agreement between Interior Minister Yishai and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the announcement was to be made on October 20, but for some reason it was postponed until this past weekend. "The timing is unusual, no doubt, but it is uncertain that the announcement was made intentionally on this date," said a minister who did not want to be identified. "It is not impossible that it was made as result of inattention and carelessness."
But an assignment of blame is not what's called for here. No one should be apologizing.

I should add that the Wall Street Journal (the first link) throws two very subtle digs into its article that display the reporter's bias against Israel. This is the first one:
Today, Har Homa is home to more than 4,000 Jewish families and is often cited by Palestinians as one of the most egregious examples of how Israel continued massive settlement construction even at the height of the Oslo peace process and one of the reasons why they are today so insistent on a full freeze on settlement building.
What you're not being told here is that nothing in the Oslo accords requires Israel to freeze 'settlement construction.' That came up during the negotiations, Israel refused and the 'Palestinians' signed the agreements anyway. They have no right to come back and try to renegotiate them after the fact.

The second indicator of bias in the Journal article is the picture, which is not of Har Homa, Ramot or anyplace else in Jerusalem. It's Kiryat Arba. While I am in favor of building in Kiryat Arba, many Israelis are not and many Israelis would (unfortunately, in my opinion) give it away to the 'Palestinians.' But whatever the case, Kiryat Arba is not Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not a 'settlement.'

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home