A statement issued by Netanyahu’s bureau said that in light of the ongoing dispute between Israel and the United States over construction in occupied East Jerusalem, the plans for new housing in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood should not have been approved this particular week! It also said the premier had ordered Yishai to draft procedures that would prevent a recurrence. In other words, Yishai is welcome to submit more plans for Jewish construction in occupied East Jerusalem next week, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will no longer be there!
Based on Biden’s reaction, it seems that he (and, presumably, his chief) has decided that it is better to leave with a few sour grapes than to quarrel with the vineyard guard. In his speech at Tel Aviv University, he said he appreciated Netanyahu’s pledge that there would be no recurrence. But what exactly does that mean? That next time he comes, the Planning and Building Committee will be asked to defer discussion of similar plans until the honored guest has left?
With the media storm dying down, Netanyahu can breathe a sigh of relief.
Israeli daily Haaretz said that in a sense, the uproar actually helped him: To wipe the spit off his face, Biden had to say it was only rain. Therefore, he lauded Netanyahu’s assertion that actual construction in Ramat Shlomo would begin only in another several years.
Thus Israel essentially received an American green light for approving even more building plans in occupied East Jerusalem.
âBiden might not know it, but the Palestinians certainly remember that this is exactly how East Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood began: Then, too, Netanyahu persuaded the White House that construction would begin only in another several years,â Haaretz reported.
When Biden arrived, the Arab League had just recommended that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accede to Washington’s proposal for indirect talks with Israel. But instead of being able to leave with an announcement that the talks have officially begun, Biden is leaving with the news that the Arab League has suspended its recommendation.
Haaretz continued, âNetanyahu can thus hope that the Ramat Shlomo imbroglio has deferred the moment of truth when he must reveal his interpretation of "two states for two peoples." And just in case anyone failed to realize how impartial a mediator the U.S. is, Biden said in his Tel Aviv speech that the U.S. has "no better friend" than Israel.â
For Netanyahu, the cherry on top was that the onus for advancing the negotiations has now been put on the Arab states – just two weeks before the Arab League summit in Tripoli, where the league’s 2002 peace initiative will again be up for discussion. For months, U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to persuade Arab leaders not to disconnect this important initiative from life support.
But while the U.S. may be papering over the rift for now, Western diplomats said the bill will come due once the talks with the PA begin (assuming they do). The U.S. has already said it will submit bridging proposals of its own during these talks, and its anger and frustration over the Ramat Shlomo incident are likely to make it far more sympathetic to the Palestinians’ positions, the diplomats said.
For instance, Netanyahu wants security issues to top the talks’ agenda, an Israeli source said. But the Palestinians want the first issue to be borders, including in occupied Jerusalem.
And the European Union, which had planned to upgrade various agreements with Israel this week in honor of the resumed talks, has now postponed the upgrade until it becomes clear whether the talks will in fact take place.
ISRAEL BELIEVES OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM ROW WONâT STOP MIDEAST TALKS
Meanwhile, Netanyahu believes that despite the protests by the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world over the settlement expansion plan, indirect talks with the PA will continue as planned early next week.
"The crisis is behind us," sources in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Bureau told Israeli media Thursday. They said proof was the invitation to Netanyahu by Biden to meet in Washington in 10 days while Netanyahu visits a meeting of the AIPAC lobby group.
The future of the negotiations was raised during a telephone conversation between Biden and Netanyahu Thursday. Biden also discussed the issue with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Biden told the Palestinian leader that the United States opposes settlement construction but is determined to resume talks. He stressed to Abbas that Washington would disapprove of a delay in taking the talks forward.
U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell is due to begin a round of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians on Monday.
Senior Israeli sources say that the Israeli prime minister has expressed confidence that the so-called proximity talks will go ahead as planned.
However, senior Palestinian officials say they will adopt the recommendation of the Arab League’s monitoring committee and will not take part in the talks.
Source: Al Manar