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Netanyahu pushes East Jerusalem settlements

Special to APN from Daniel Seidemann and Lara Friendman

Netanyahu's undeclared period of self-restraint in Jerusalem appears to have come to an end. No new tenders for construction in East Jerusalem had been issued since Vice President Biden's fateful visit to Jerusalem last March, nor had any new construction plans been deposited for public review since that time.
Until now.

On Thursday of last week new tenders were for the construction of an additional 238 residential units in Pisgat Zeev and Ramot.
The following day (November 5) three plans for new construction were deposited for public review.  These plans are for the construction of approximately 1,352 new units in East Jerusalem (more than double the total number built by Israel for Palestinians since 1967).  News of the plans is now being widely reported in the Israeli and (link has expired) international press.
The plans in question are:

  • Town Plan 13010, in Har Homa C, which significantly expands the footprint of the existing built-up area;
  • Town Plan 12825, in Har Homa B, for approximately 50 units; and
  • Town Plan 4820B, in Ramot, for approximately 320 units.

A number of observations are in order:

1. Neither the issuing of the tenders last week (for construction in Pisgat Zeev and Ramot) nor the subsequent deposit of the plans (for construction in Har Homa and Ramot) could have taken place without the personal authorization and blessing of the Prime Minister.

2. The timing and context of these moves were chosen by the Prime Minister.
3. The scope of these events go beyond simple tactical maneuvering.  It appears that Netanyahu has opened up the East Jerusalem settlement floodgates.

4. It appears that the Prime Minister has a special weakness for Vice President Biden - or at least for embarrassing the man.  Their last very public interaction in March 2009 was marked by the government of Israel's promotion of a new settlement plan for Ramat Shlomo, leading to a diplomatic debacle.  This weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu met Vice President Biden in New Orleans on the margins of the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly -- after which Biden delivered a speech pledging America's unconditional support for Israel and saying that there should be "no daylight" between the US and Israel when it comes to security.  It was a speech that - given Israel's failure to play ball with the Obama Administration over settlements and the peace process - Netanyahu could rightfully cast as a huge diplomatic victory.  And he has rewarded this victory - and Vice President Biden for his staunch support of Israel - by publicly humiliating the Vice President once again and sticking a finger in they eye of the Obama Administration.

UPDATE: Peace Now's Hagit Ofran posted this excellent review of the breaking story.