According to Ynet, the idiotic, catastrophic and harmful announcement of the construction of 1600 new residential units in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo on the day that the VP of the USA, Mr. Biden himself, was in Israel to show senior-level support for a new round of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, happened without Netanyahu’s knowledge or approval. In fact, according to Ynet, Netanyahu demanded that the Interior Ministry, headed by Eli Yishai from Shas, a Sephardic Orthodox party, keep him abreast of any new housing developments and avoid any “surprises.”
Well, Biden kept Netanyahu and his wife waiting for him for an hour and a half when it was time to host him for dinner. An hour and a half! At least he showed up, Israel should be grateful that he was in a forgiving mood.
Netanyahu apologized, of course, but it was far too late. After months of trying to bring the Palestinians to the table and involving half the Arab governments in the region in the process, on the day when the US administration sent its second most senior member to initiate the process, the Israeli government humiliated him, the US administration, the PA government and the state of Israel in general.
Remember when Israel sent soldiers to Lebanon without food or fighting supplies? Remember when the Deputy Foreign Minister sat the Turkish envoy to Israel on a low seat and happily told reporters to note the humiliation? Remember when the Israeli Olympics team kept the Israeli figure skating champion away from the Vancouver Olympics because she was only ranked 20th in the world? Remember when the Goldstone Report came out and the Israeli government refused (and refuses) to appoint an independent investigative commission even though it opens every Israeli officer who played a role in that war to potential war crimes charges if Israel can’t get the West to play along? Remember how in the midst of this difficult diplomatic dance, it was discovered that some intelligence agency was using, for a hit in a foreign country, passports from the Western countries that will determine how Goldstone is addressed? Remember the recently opened ridiculous government propaganda website that is intended to make every Israeli a spokesperson for Israel?
This one takes the prize. This has to be the most offensive, most amateurish, most foolish action taken by Israel in many, many years.
It also makes Netanyahu look like an idiot. If he knew about this and didn’t stop it, then he’s very stupid. If he didn’t know about this and he’s the PM of Israel being undermined by one of his ministers and ministries, then he’s not in control.
There will be lots of apologies by Israel to the US over this one and there will be a price to pay because Israel will now enter these negotiations hamstrung by its inability to play up its deep friendship with the US. On the contrary, expect the US to teach Israel a lesson.
And it will be well deserved.
“The district committees approve plans weekly without informing me,” Yishai told Israel Radio. He further said that the committee could not have predicted that the approval would spur such a political storm.
“A few days ago, hundreds of new housing units were approved in Beitar Illit, which is much more problematic,” said Yishai. “So if the committee members saw that those houses were approved without a problem, they didn’t think a technical authorization in Jerusalem, which isn’t part of the settlement freeze, would require the minister’s knowledge.”
Yishai emphasized that even though he doesn’t see a problem with the actual authorization of the East Jerusalem homes, if he knew about it, he would have delayed the move by a few weeks.
“If I’d have known, I would have postponed the authorization by a week or two since we had no intention of provoking anyone,” Yishai said. “It is definitely unpleasant that this happened during Biden’s visit. If the committee members would have known that the approval would have escalated to such a situation, they would have informed me,” Yishai emphasized.
“I apologize for the distress this matter caused,” he added.