Israel Approves Settlement Construction
Seen as a sop to right-wing parties
In preparation for a forthcoming six-month freeze on settlement construction, Israel over the weekend authorized plans for 455 new houses to be built in the West Bank. It’s a move contrary to U.S. and Arab demands for a complete halt on settlement grown, but apparently it’s not contrary enough to further stall already long-stalled Arab-Israeli peace talks. For one thing, most of these houses are to be built near the 1967 lines in the settlements of Har Gilo, Givat Zeev, Maale Adumim, Kedar and Alon Shvut—territories which all sides, either tacitly or explicitly, concede are going to wind up under Israel’s control. For another, this license for construction is seen in Israel as an emollient to the far-right parties that participate in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government. Indeed, the Jerusalem Post leads this morning with an article that Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu party has no plans to topple the current administration in protest over the freeze. Lieberman himself, the foreign minister, is not really involved in the multilateral talks (although he is meeting with U.S. envoy George Mitchell next week) and is happy so long as Israel is allowed to build unfettered in the contested capital of Jerusalem.