Joe Biden was kicked in the balls as he came to Israel with a simultaneous "fuck you" by the Israeli government announcing new settlements - 1600 houses - in East Jerusalem. The immediate spin was that Netanyahu was blindsided by the actions of his Interior Department and was embarrassed. But Haaretz reports today that these 1600 are just the beginning:
Some 50,000 new housing units in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Green Line are in various stages of planning and approval, planning officials told Haaretz. They said Jerusalem's construction plans for the next few years, even decades, are expected to focus on East Jerusalem.
Most of the housing units will be built in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods beyond the Green Line, while a smaller number of them will be built in Arab neighborhoods. The plans for some 20,000 of the apartments are already in advanced stages of approval and implementation, while plans for the remainder have yet to be submitted to the planning committees.
But Laura Rozen, always worth reading, sees skepticism in Israel:
Many observers were skeptical that Netanyahu was as in the dark about the plan as he claimed to Biden.
“Either one believes Netanyahu and his friends in government (saying it is all misunderstanding and bad timing),” wrote Jerusalem Post blogger Shmuel Rosner. “In such case, one should be concerned by Israel's chaotic decision-making process on delicate matters.”
“Or, one might choose not to believe,” Rosner continued. “One might think Netanyahu isn't telling the truth, or that [Interior Minister] Yishai is bluffing. If it's the former, one will conclude that Netanyahu has no intention of seriously exploring the just-announced peace negotiations. If it's the latter one will realize that Shas and Yishai are strong enough to toy with Netanyahu as much as they want - as much as embarrassing the American [Vice President]! - without paying a price. Not an encouraging thought.”
I cannot read Netanyahu's mind. But I can observe Israel's actions. They intend to occupy and colonize the entire West Bank for ever. They may allow some parceled enclaves for Palestinians, but they will maintain a big military presence on the Eastern border of West Bank, and they will sustain this with raw military power and force. I certainly cannot see any other rationale for their actions these past few years that makes any sense at all. Many Israeli politicians now use the term "apartheid" for this future.
(Map via Juan Cole.)