As Biden touches down, Israel announces 112 new settlement units in stark violation of ‘freeze’

Before even landing in Israel, Vice President Biden gave an interview to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahroneth. It was very much on the threat from Iran and US-Israeli military cooperation, but amazingly brief on upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. According to various press reports,

"Biden, who arrives in Jerusalem on Monday and departs Israel on Thursday, was not expected to take part in indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks that would be spearheaded by Obama’s special envoy, George Mitchell, and could be announced during his visit, although he will be briefed on them."

Instead Biden is to engage in "public diplomacy." Reuters indicates, "that means reassuring anxious Israelis about Obama’s commitment to their security while explaining why they should be willing to make concessions for peacemaking."

It should be interesting to see what actual Israeli concessions Biden plans to promote. His fibbing to Yedioth on the West Bank construction freeze is not a promising sign.

"The construction freeze was a unilateral decision by the Israeli government, and it is not part of an agreement with the American administration or with the Palestinians."

"It is not everything that we wanted, but it is an important action that has significant impact on the ground." [My emphasis.]

Unless the CIA and the US Embassy are not doing their jobs, Biden should have been briefed that there is no indication of any settlement freeze. The Jerusalem Post analyzed the latest report from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) and concluded, "The number of housing starts in the settlements rose in the fourth quarter of 2009, precisely when the government-ordered freeze on such activity should have pushed the numbers down."

The statistics are incomplete and we will have to wait until the next CBS quarterly report to know for certain whether there has been any freezing of construction. However, the same article reported that despite Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i stating last month that "29 settlements were in violation of the freeze," to date the civil administration and the IDF "have destroyed construction at only three sites where work was ongoing…." The terms of the moratorium restricted construction halts to work on homes that lacked a foundation, while allowing work "to continue on 3,000 homes that did have foundations in place."

For those of you distressed that the West Bank settlers might be running out of accommodations to meet their robust "natural growth," the CBS also reported that "the number of homes completed in the settlements rose in 2009, to 2,077 homes, a 29.7% hike from the 1,601 West Bank Jewish homes that were finished in 2008." 

And just to demonstrate how significant an impact on the ground the freeze has had, on the day of Biden’s arrival Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved 112 new housing units in the ultra-orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit. The reason given was "safety issues", which evidently is one of the grounds for an exception to the announced freeze.
 

About Bruce Wolman

Bruce Wolman is a citizen journalist who has lived in Norway and the Washington area.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Settlers/Colonists

{ 47 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Mooser says:

    Sorry, I know I’ve said it before, but when Obama didn’t call a halt to Bush’s wars, try to regain control of Bush’s military/contractor matrix, and at least try to get an accounting for the last eight years, all the air done went out of his balloon. Israel knows who is really in charge of America’s foreign policy, and they don’t mind showing Obama they know it.
    Never seen anybody so efficiently screw himself.

    • Avi says:

      Mooser,

      Why apologize? It bears repeating a thousand times.

      • Mooser says:

        Does Obama think the US military has been saving all the good results and outcomes from these two wars (the ones we were supposed to have won in six weeks, at most six months) for him, so he can show up Bush? What a chump Obama can be.
        Until Obama (or some other President) stops the US military from basically making it’s own foreign policy for its own benefit, he will be at their mercy.
        Did Obama think that if he aided the US military in their prime mission (Avoid an accounting, of any type, military, medical, financial, administrative, treatment of wounded, anything, is Job No.1) they would be nice to him? What a chump.

        • Citizen says:

          Ah, but the US military-industrial-congressional-security-complex just Loves him, for putting a minority face on their predatory (both domestically and in foreign affairs) status quo. Why have Shrub when you can have Obama? It couldn’t get
          better for the 1% elite, and their 14% minions–too bad for the rest of us–not to mention too bad for the Pals.

        • Mooser says:

          And Obama had only a small window of oppurtunity to do something about it, and he didn’t. Admittedly, a small window, but it was there, if he was inclined to back up his campaign rhetoric, but I guess he wasn’t.

        • Citizen says:

          Obama is the type of guy who will be as creative as he can within the boundaries; if he was, say a poet in the mid-1920s, he’d be pretty creative within the set forms handed down–but he’d never venture into free form poetry.

        • Citizen says:

          The Israel leader N knows that the American elite is the same way–he grew up in the USA from age 14, and he studied political science at Harvard University and MIT. Obama’s character then is easily grasped. “Change” is merely change within the old forms–that’s why he so confidentally thumbs his nose at the freezing of settlements despite Obama’s Cairo speech. He didn’t even gamble, it turns it out.

        • Avi says:

          When LBJ reversed JFK’s policies overnight and escalated the war in Vietnam, it was the end of an era and the beginning of military rule in the US.

          From that day forward, the president of the United States became nothing but a symbolic position. He does not make decisions, nor does he draft foreign policy. There is a ruling elite that is running the United States, and it operates away from public view. There is no point in going through the motions every four years, trying to decide for whom to vote. While the rhetoric may differ between Republicans or Democrats, Likudniks or Kadimites, the end result is the same.

          That is not to imply that a silent military coup occurred in Israel in the same way it did in the US. In Israel, the government of the day was always comprised of generals. That’s how one makes it to high office in Israel, you join the military, and make it a career, you work your way up the ranks all the way to the PM’s cabinet room. (See Yoram Peri’s Generals in the Cabinet Room).

        • Pamela Olson says:

          You think Rahm’s behind Obama’s neo-con turn? Or was there no turn — was he always a neo-con in centrist’s clothing with liberal rhetoric?

          This dude gives me a headache.

        • Citizen says:

          I think both Obama and Rahm are PEPs; Rahm, because he is a Zionist, else why did he go shoe Israeli tanks; he could’ve gone into the US Army at that time, or even made regular polgrimages to our VA hospitals. OTH, I don’t think Obama is PEP because he’s at heart an Israel Firster; rather I think he
          is well aware the Palestinians are the ones being oppressed, but he never put teeth in his Cairo speech because Rahm assured him if he tried to follow up on his Cairo speech, key votes would be lost and his health plan would go down the tubes, and the MSM would diss his health plan too. Obama perceives passage of his health “reform” as top priority for his power so as not to be swept out of office as an incompetent leader.

        • Mooser says:

          “When LBJ… end result is the same”

          Please check yourself very carefully in the mirror next time you shave, Avi. There is a possibility we are the same person, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, let alone a smart compassionate and astute guy like you.

    • RE: “Biden gave an interview to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahroneth. It was very much on the threat from Iran and US-Israeli military cooperation, but amazingly brief on upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” – Wolman
      SEE: Secret Israeli report: U.S. cozying up to Palestinians – Haaretz, 03/07/10
      (EXCERPTS) The U.S. administration will not put a lot of effort into the upcoming indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, opting instead to focus on the November Congressional elections, according to an internal Foreign Ministry report that was distributed to Israeli diplomatic missions abroad….
      …U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is due to arrive in Israel Monday afternoon. The Obama administration hopes to be in a position to announce the resumption of talks before his arrival so that his visit can concentrate on U.S. relations with Israel and with the PA rather than on bridging the gap between Israel and the Palestinians.
      Biden is expected to present the administration’s broad vision of the peace process and to avoid focusing on the details of the conflict…
      …According to the report Washington is aware of the domestic political problems faced separately by both Netanyahu and Abbas and has decided to concentrate on achieving the limited goal of restarting the negotiations. The peace talks will not be at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda, the report claims.
      “In our assessment the administration will focus in the coming year on domestic issues that are expected to determine the results of the Congressional elections,” the report’s authors wrote. “As such, and due to the difficulties to date in achieving significant gains in the peace process we can assume that the administration’s focus on this issue will be limited and will predominantly remain in the hands of Mitchell’s teams.”
      According to the report, Washington can be expected to portray the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian talks as a domestic and international achievement, in the hope of creating an atmosphere that is conducive to direct negotiations between the parties on the core issues.
      The authors of the report also predict that the administration will avoid taking any position that suggests disagreement with Israel, because of the support that Israel enjoys among both parties in Congress.
      SOURCE – link to haaretz.com

      • Bruce says:

        Yes, I have another posting in the queue waiting for review from Phil which includes the same quotes from the internal Israeli Foreign Ministry report.

  2. potsherd says:

    Netanyahu never misses an opportunity to tell the US to Fuck You. Timing is no coincidence.

  3. Rehmat says:

    As long the Israel Lobby (aka Jewish Lobby) is in power in American administration – the Palestinians will never win their place in world’s free communities. Professor Edward Said had rightly predicted that: “Arabs will get their freedom only when Americans get their freedom”.

    The ‘handshake’ photo without Bibi’s commitment to Jewish settlement freeze – provided victory to the fanatic Israeli leaders to celebrate after listening to Obama’s speech next day at the United Nations General Assembly, which most probably was written by Bibi’s speech-writer. While Obama blamed Islamic Iran for most of the world’s problems – it paid only lip service to Palestinians under Jewish occupation. Could it be me alone who smells skunk in his statement: “The time has come to relaunch negotiations without pre-conditions that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees and Jerusalem. the goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security; a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of Palestinian people….”

    Haven’t we been there before!
    link to rehmat1.wordpress.com

  4. Actually, Arabs will get their freedom when Israel gets theirs is more accurate.

    So long as the war on Israel continues, then the war from Israel will as well.

    The settlement freeze is a different question that is in Israel’s best interests to stop, so that it can proceed to reconcile and conclude a peace agreement.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      And how much Israeli land are Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt or Syria occupying militarily?

      • Avi says:

        Chaos,

        He’s just trying a new tactic. Every once in a while when he runs out of lies he starts all over again with basic hasbara talking points and works his way down.

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah, you’re right Witty, if only Israel could be free–I see the surrounding Arab states
      have blockaded Israel from air, land, and sea, created an open-air prison, keep grabbing more Israeli land in the West Bank.
      If only poor little Israel had a few pebbles to sling shot at the collective Arab Goliath
      resplendent in the latest armor and sophisticated weapons….

    • Excellent point, Witty. That Iron Wall policy at the core of the Palestinian philosophy: “create an iron wall, an overwhelming military force, and return force a hundredfold for every offensive action Israel takes. Kill them in a ‘pedagogical’ exercise until they get it through their thick heads that we are going to take their land. Eventually, some will moderate and make the rational decision to accept half a loaf….”

      Oh,
      wait,
      That was Jabotinsky who enshrined the Iron Wall policy at the core of zionism, not Palestine.
      Jabotinsky’s a Jew from Poland, not an Arab from Palestine.

      my bad

      • Somehow you think that you are speaking to me. Either that or you are clueless at the range of possible Zionist worldviews, imagining that every Zionist is a Jabotinskyite.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          Somehow, Witty, what PG describes fits exactly your stance on what should be done about the Palestinians. When ever there’s substansive talk about respecting Palestinian rights — allowing refugees to return, halting the advance of invasive colonists and the destruction of Palestinian property, or God forbid, punishing Israel for breaking international law… you go Jabotinsky on us.

          As I’ve spelled out in prior posts, Israel is war. It is the occupation. Israel has never existed without these things. From day one, self-declared Israelis were wiping out Palestinian villages, in their hubris waving a flag with the Star of David above them.

          And you support that.

        • Saleema says:

          We all know Zionist world views boil down to this: we matter and you don’t. And we got the world’s powers beside us and you can’t do shit.

          It’s as simple as that Witty.

          The main difference between you and your pal Phil, and your co-religionist Mooser, is that they both write with passion, while your defense of everything Zionist is cold-hearted.

          Your Zionist friends that come on here speak with passion, whether they are spewing hatred or expressing contempt for Palestinians. While their views are troublesome, yours are more so, because your contempt is deliberate and well-thought out. But, your attempt to conceal it is pathetic. You fool only yourself.

        • Saleema says:

          Sigh.

          That makes it seem as if I’m saying that Phil and Mooser are zionists or that they agree with Witty. that’s not what I’m trying to say.

          but i got other things to do and I’m not elaborating.

        • Mooser says:

          “Somehow you think that you are speaking to me.”

          You mean like your ziocaine hallucination that Phil is listening to you?

          So of course, every Palestinian, every Arab is responsible for every rocket or suicide attack, but if we can find one kindly Zionist….

          Gosh, you’re a nasty piece of work, Witty.

        • Mooser says:

          Israel is war.

          It’s the triumph of the will, of course!

        • Mooser says:

          No problem Saleema! At my age, anytime my name is associated with “passion”, I’m alright with it.

  5. Mooser says:

    “So long as the war on Israel continues, then the war from Israel will as well.”

    And you think Israel can win this war, or do you expect the US to win it for them?

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Witty’s talking nonsense. Israel and war are inseparable. The former has never existed except by spreading the latter.

    • Citizen says:

      From every Jerry Springer trailor park in the USA, and from every inner city, from coast to coast, we will give our blood and treasure (hock those old country vinyls and confederate battle flags) to
      free Israel from the tyrant towel-headed Palestinians.

      • Mooser says:

        Treasure, yes, since treasure is pretty fungible. Blood, well there I have my doubts, Citizen.
        I find it very hard to envision Gentile parents (except for a lunatic fringe, of course) eager to shed their children’s blood for Israel’s benefit.

        • Citizen says:

          No, Mooser, they just shed it to protect the good old USA–better fight them over there, than here, and don’t they all know their sons and daughters are fighting
          for democracy and American family values? That’s why we’ve been engaged in two wars for 8 years, and are nearing embarking on a third one. Now, if those Gentile parents were given even a few spoonfulls of truth regarding the I-P situation, I’d agree with you–I just don’t think that will happen on Fox News or Jerry Springer Show. And what’s more fungible than watching cars go ’round and ’round on the NASCAR track? Maybe they might take an interest if the cars were marked with
          Israeli and Palestinian flags?

        • jimby says:

          It’s simple, just keep the economy in the crapper and soldier boying is an “attractive” job. Please pass the Kool-Aid

        • Citizen says:

          45% of all the US grunts in the Middle East are from jobless rural areas across the USA.

        • Mooser says:

          Citizen, the Israelis cannot compete in NASCAR. You think they could turn left for over an hour?

  6. syvanen says:

    I am still a supporter of J Street (yes, it sounds naive, hope springs eternal, and so on and so forth) and just received their cheerleading for these latest round of talks. They told me this:

    2. Process and talk, while commendable, are not the goal. Achieving a two-state solution is. Just yesterday, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni put it bluntly in an interview: “The goal is not the negotiations — the goal is the peace treaty.” [2]

    3. The US role in this process is, to state the obvious, vital to any hope of success. Nearly all experts know that the parties alone cannot reach an agreement. Success isn’t simply in the interest of Israelis and Palestinians, it’s a core national security interest for the United States – and a strong, sustained American role in the process will be key to bridging gaps and supporting all sides in making the difficult but necessary compromises for peace.

    4. Successful agreements — like the peace treaty with Egypt and achievements at Taba — have included such a role. We are encouraged by reports that there is a clear time limit for these talks.

    5. There is no need to start over from scratch. After years of negotiations, the outlines of a viable two-state solution are well known and widely agreed upon – borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed reciprocal land swaps; Jerusalem as the capital of both states, based on the demographic realities on the ground and allowing freedom of access to all holy sites; robust security arrangements; and an agreed upon resolution of the refugee issue that preserves Israel’s Jewish character.

    If these talks really led to a viable two-state solution then I think most of us would give it the old hip, hip hooray. Pessimism is in order.

    What caught my eye in this release was the statement There is no need to start over from scratch. After years of negotiations, the outlines of a viable two-state solution are well known and widely agreed upon – borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed reciprocal land swaps. I attended a debate that featured Omar Barghouti last evening and one thing that really jumped out was that these younger Palestinian leaders are not accepting any of the compromises Arafat made between 1992 – 2000. They are most definitely insisting on some very basic demands and whenever they enter into negotiations it will be whole new game. Nor do did Omar make a single acknowledgment that negotiations were even happening now (in spite of prodding my his opponent, Zeev Moaz). It was a very impressive display.

    • Bruce says:

      I have a post waiting to go up which contrasts this J Street email with the Israeli Foreign Ministry report of a few days ago. One of them is widely off the mark.

  7. Les says:

    What are the chances of Biden visiting the Palestinian children discussed in Nora Barrows-Friedman article?

    link to electronicintifada.net

  8. cvillej says:

    I’m sure Ol’ Joe “I am a Zionist” Biden is an objective, constructive force for the Israel Lobby wherever he goes:

    Joe Biden: I am a Zionist on Shalom TV. 2:34 into the video for the relevant schtick.

  9. Citizen says:

    From Business Week today:
    Hours before Biden’s arrival yesterday, Israel disclosed that it had approved the construction of 112 new homes in a West Bank settlement, drawing condemnation from the Palestinian Authority, which called the action “provocative.”
    U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who announced the sides’ acceptance of the indirect talks, called on “the parties, and all concerned, to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks.”

  10. seafoid says:

    What difference would it make if Israel stopped building new houses for settlers ?
    Would the existing half a million settlers be likely to go anywhere ? Israel is just building for the binational future.