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Settlement Kerfuffle Follows the Script

Building announcement leads to U.S.-Israeli friction

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Prime Minister Netanyahu Monday at the United Nations.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Vice President Biden traveled to the General Assembly in New Orleans to reassure attendees that America had Israel’s back security-wise. On Monday, Israel provocatively announced significant (though not deal-breaking) new construction in East Jerusalem. Yesterday, the top State Department spokesperson linked the announcement to the peace process, and President Obama himself argued, “This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations. I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side make the extra effort.” The whole thing is playing out exactly as it did in March: Biden visit; housing announcement; U.S. pushback. In March, Prime Minister Netanyahu retorted with the defiant declaration: “Jerusalem is not a settlement”; yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu retorted with the defiant declaration: … I’ll just let you guess.

The latest to-do, Aaron David Miller told me this morning, “reflects a much-diminished administration that got off on the wrong foot from the beginning.” Prior history as well as the prospects of continued Israeli-Palestinian negotiations give Netanyahu greater leverage, according to the former negotiator. The prime minister “knows that the administration believes the only way this Israeli-Palestinian problem is going to be resolved is negotiations, and so he’s convinced himself that they need him more than he needs them,” Miller said. “I don’t think he’s looking for a confrontation, but he’s willing to stand his ground.” Especially, Miller added, since we are talking about Jerusalem here: “Building in Jerusalem is as natural as breathing.”

To be fair to Obama: The timing of the announcement again seemed calculated to provoke and to assert Netanyahu’s (new?) upper hand; East Jerusalem lies on the far side of the 1967 Green Line; and Israel also just announced the construction of more than 1000 homes in Ariel, an unequivocal West Bank settlement.

But to be fair to Netanyahu: It is nigh impossible to imagine a final deal that does not include some sort of Israeli sovereignty in all of Jerusalem; East Jerusalem was never included in any freeze deal; and even the freeze deal that was reached a year ago has since expired. “Building in Jerusalem was never considered off-limits by either the government of Israel or frankly—with respect to the Obama administration, they basically acquiesed in it,” Miller noted. He also pointed out that the neighborhood the announcement concerns is one that Netanyahu himself made a move on when he was prime minister in the late 1990s.

(Miller opined that the recent Republican surge is the least important factor here, though it does mean that Obama will have enough to worry about over the next two years without also pushing the Israelis on East Jerusalem as well. Certainly this is, as Ben Smith noted, the first post-midterms test of Obama’s stomach for foreign confrontation.)

To put it another way: Neither opposition leader Tzipi Livni, of Kadima, whose GA speech yesterday was fairly well received by the left, nor any other plausible leader of Israel is going to be any more willing to cede Israeli claims to all of Jerusalem.

On top of all that, some others have complained that Obama made his remarks while drumming up support in Indonesia—the world’s largest Muslim country, which does not permit Israelis to enter.

So, where are we now? A crucial thing to watch is Netanyahu’s meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Clinton. Her bona fides as a friend to Israel are pretty much impeccable. But she was the one who, in March, famously upbraided Netanyahu on the phone for 43 to 45 minutes (depending on your source) for that prior settlement announcement. “If it’s a reprise of what happened in March,” explained Miller of the Clinton-Netanyahu get-together, “we’re not prepared to back it up. We just look weak—we look pathetic, frankly, it’s beyond weak.” How she and the administration handles this situation, I think, will be the most telling hint over the direction the circus will travel over the next few months. Miller’s advice? “Save your powder for an effort that could actually advance the negotiations.”

In Curt Exchange, U.S. Faults Israel on Housing [NYT]

Crowley Chides PM’s Statements on J’lem Building [JPost]
After U.S. Chides Netanyahu over East Jerusalem Construction, More Settlement Plans Unveiled [Haaretz]
Earlier: Biden’s Brief, Bibi’s Bombast, Simon’s Sermon
The Jews and their City. And their Umbrellas.
U.S.-Israel Relations Hit Nadir

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fred lapides says:

Obama would not give up the potential Democratic vote usual for his party by daring to cut aid to Israel, or any other punitive measure. Bibi knows this. The Bibi remark that “Jerusalem is not a settlement,” while valid and to the point, nonetheless was a public retort that was insulting to the intelligence of Obama. Jerusalem is of course the capital and all Israelis know and want this. But since building in East Jerusalem is a political problem for peace negotiations, the timing of both the insult and the move to build was ill-considered. Israel will continue to do what it wants, assuming that the US will not fail to support that ally, but the American people are increasingly building a resentment about Israel’s ill-timed moves when the entire peace process is clearly at risk of falling apart.

The “entire peace process” has been falling apart since 1948. The idea that Jews cannot live in certain parts of the world and particularly in Jerusalem for any reason whatsoever is so ludicrous and racist that it leaves behind such infamous expressions like “dogs and Jews are not allowed”. Past anti-Semites made, at least, equal sign between dogs and Jews; now however “friends of Jews” are denying Jews even that. That is true: they have nothing against dogs living in East Jerusalem.

The inability to share the city, and to advance upon it, and ethnically cleanse and leave homeless the residents is truly odious. The UN set up Jerusalem as an international city- not a city for Israel only. If taking over and building there, expanding the borders of the city far into the west bank and still calling it east jerusalem is as easy as breathing air, then so is theft. Remember when the capital was Tel-Aviv? Just because Bibi made moves on it before is not a title, seems you think that you’re saying possession is nine tenths of the law, and no one slapped him before so it makes it right. It doesn’t. It’s pathetic.

Trumpeldor says:

@Fred Lapides,
“but the American people are increasingly building a resentment about Israel’s ill-timed moves when the entire peace process is clearly at risk of falling apart.”

-The American people is at odds with Obama and the polls indicates a strong and persistent support for Israeli positions
-Whatever Israel does, Mr Lapides will find the moves ill timed

“The UN set up Jerusalem as an international city- not a city for Israel only. If taking over and building there, ‘

Indeed and what did Jordan do to implement UN decisions ”
They ethnically cleansed the Jewish quarter of the Old city , blasted synagogues and turned Jewish tombs into toilets …
Yes,truth huts and if you feel so much at ease with your leftist ignoring bias,you should change you name Sara, our fore mother into something more exotic like leila
In the meantime,enjoy pork with milk !

“Remember when the capital was Tel-Aviv?”

No. When was that?

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

With Pres.Obama’s election, even Jewish votes, Jewish money, Jewish support, it became evident within a short time that Pres. Obama was the spokesperson for the Palestinians and his Rev.Wright.

Abbas crossed his arms and allowed Pres. Obama to do the negotiations..our Jewish elected democrat officials kept silent while non-Jewish repubublicans took to the floor of the House and Senate at the treatment by Pres.Obama of throwing out P.M. Netanyahu at the back door.

No Pres. has ever done this to any head of State..and Israel is a Jewish State..but the media is the Pravda of this administration..though they may be Jewish themselves.

No different than the Jews who in the beginning helped Hitler. Again, they have forgotten..they are not the majority in this country and it can Happen Again.

Pres. Obama would never treat any head of a Muslim country that way. In fact, we have a Pres. who cares more for Muslims than for Americans.

Not only is he a dud in handling foreign affairs, he has made white people racists who were never before racist with his Dept of Justice.

Republicans have been afraid to speak out since this administration is the Al Capone gang from Chicago.

Pres. Obama has deliberately gone around the world and put down the country that voted him the first Black Pres. He has deliberately made policy to redistribute the wealth of hard working people to those who do not want to work or just used to hand outs.

By the time his term ends, we will be a third world country and toilet tissue will cost 1 million dollars a roll. That is what he and his minions from his own Rev. Wright’s church think we deserve while they deserve it all.

Just FYI – Both the ‘unequivocal settlement’ Ariel and the neighborhood of East Jerusalem where the badly needed housing will be built are on land Jews legally purchased and have owned for decades.The fact is that this land was illegally seized by Jordan. the Jewish inhabitants ethnically cleansed and the land held for 19 years until Israel recovered it after Jordan attacked Israel in 1967.

And exactly where does our president or anyone else get off telling Jews and no one else where they may build homes? he’s never said a single thing about the Arab illegal construction in Jerusalem, or in places like Rawabi.

Apartheid and segregation, anyone?

The ‘Palestinians’ had ten months to come to the table and deliberately delayed things for nine and a half months with the intent of deliberately provoking this Kabuki ‘crisis’ figuring they had an anti-Israel president in the White House.

Like Obama, they’ve overplayed their hand.

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Settlement Kerfuffle Follows the Script

Building announcement leads to U.S.-Israeli friction

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