Friday, January 10, 2014

Map: Israel’s Housing Ministry announces new settlement tenders

The Housing Ministry announced Friday morning new tenders for 1,400 housing units in settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

The announcement was made three weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he intends to launch a new wave of settlement construction parallel to the third step of Palestinian prisoner release.

Tenders were released for the construction of 600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem, which lies over the Green Line, and a further 801 units in settlement blocs in the West Bank.

Israel will build 227 housing units in Efrat, 78 in Alfei Menashe, 86 in Karnei Shomron, 40 in Ariel, 75 in Adam, 24 in Beitar Illit, 102 in Immanuel and 169 in Elkana.

In addition, tenders were released for the construction of 532 units in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, across the Green Line. The plots for these units were marketed in the past but found no buyers, and were now put back out on the market. These include 182 units in Pisgat Ze’ev, 294 in Ramot and 56 in Neve Yaakov.

(Source: Ha’aretz)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Poll: Israelis Believe US Committed to Israeli Security, Netanyahu Can Withstand American Pressure

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Monday, January 6, 2014

The brotherhood is over but Lapid’s damage is done

When Yair Lapid woke up the morning after winning 19 seats in the 19th Knesset and decided the best thing he could do was drag Yesh Atid into a fraternal alliance with Habayit Hayehudi, he immediately consigned the next government to discord and dysfunctionality. When he hitched his broad, secular and centrist party – heir to Kadima, Shinui, and Dash – to a right-wing, national-religious faction representing the interests a few thousand fanatics living in isolated mitzpim in Samaria, Lapid with one move betrayed the very people who voted for him.

Lapid was terrifically naïve during coalition negotiations, stupid even. He wasted political capital he could have used to better shape the government on trifling matters like the number of ministerial posts. He allowed Habayit Hayehudi to carry over into the coalition agreement a clause demanding consensus from all parties on matters pertaining to religion and state – something the ultra-Orthodox factions had previously demanded. He acquiesced to their control of the Housing Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Services.

Only now is Lapid witnessing the sour fruits of his winter sowing. A Housing Minister (extreme even within Habayit Hayehudi) gone rogue, announcing tenders for thousands of new settlement units in the middle of negotiations, in so doing almost destroying the peace process. Yesh Atid’s liberal legislation on LGBT rights – employment rights, tax benefits, surrogacy access – stymied in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The status of the universal draft up in the air. Nothing accomplished on civil unions, housing, and other issues of immediate concern to Lapid’s constituency.

But that’s not even the half of it. The Lapid-Bennett alliance, after all, turned out not to be much of an alliance in the end. It was merely a marriage of convenience established to get its leaders ministerial seats and propagate the myth of the ‘new politics’. But in supporting Bennett’s entry into government, Lapid has allowed a genuine ideological axis between Habayit Hayehudi and Yisrael Beitienu to form, one that is proving and will prove destructive.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sheldon Adelson doesn’t know much about the Middle East

From The Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis’ report on “Will Jews Exist?”, a forum at which Sheldon Adelson spewed forth on a variety of subjects. Of Adelson’s opinions, better read to be believed, I think:

  • On the Palestinians: “If they truly want peace, it’s very simple to say to all their henchman, lay off the terrorism for five years.”
  • Whether Netanyahu will bomb Iran without U.S. permission: “[Former Israeli prime minister Ehud] Olmert is a political person. His wind blows in the direction of the polls. [Netanyahu] is not a political person. [His] wind blows in the direction of his ideology, and his deep and unwavering support and love for the Jewish people and the state of Israel. I am absolutely convinced that Bibi says what he means, means what he says, and if he says that Iran is an existential threat, he would not live…without taking some kind of action.”
  • A preemptive U.S. nuclear strike on unpopulated areas of Iran as a negotiating tactic: “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business.’”
  • Muslims: “I don’t know the difference between the Shia and the Sunnis.”
  • More on the Palestinians: “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian. Do you know what they are? They call themselves southern Syrians.”
  • His opposition to a two-state solution: “To go and allow a Palestinian state is to play Russian roulette.”
Monday, October 14, 2013
jstreetnational:

30,000 Israelis - 10,000 more than last year and largely young people - attended the Yitzhak Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv. 
Yonatan Ben Artzi, the grandson of Yitzhak Rabin, called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to make peace: “My grandfather was murdered over peace, and you owe us all peace. You have a unique opportunity to take advantage of the world situation for peace. It won’t be easy or popular. But it’s your time to close a circle and bring us peace.” http://bit.ly/1elqfap

jstreetnational:

30,000 Israelis - 10,000 more than last year and largely young people - attended the Yitzhak Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv. 

Yonatan Ben Artzi, the grandson of Yitzhak Rabin, called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to make peace: “My grandfather was murdered over peace, and you owe us all peace. You have a unique opportunity to take advantage of the world situation for peace. It won’t be easy or popular. But it’s your time to close a circle and bring us peace.” http://bit.ly/1elqfap

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) has published its July peace index which shows that Israeli Jews remain deeply pessimistic about the peace process.
Although a majority of Jews say the Israeli government really does want to resume the talks (63pc) and trust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to conduct the negotiations such that Israel’s security will be safeguarded (60pc), 80 percent see the chances of producing a peace agreement now as moderately low or very low. 58 percent believes moreover that there would not be majority support for a peace agreement that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the territories and evacuation of settlements if a referendum were held tomorrow.
Why is this? Well, 64 percent of Israeli Jews do not believe that the Palestinian leadership  genuinely want to resume talks for a final status agreement, on the one hand. But on the other, and this is in some way linked to the first reason, Israeli Jews do not necessarily support the individual components of a peace agreement:

Some 77% oppose Israeli recognition in principle of the right of return, with a small number of Palestinian refugees being allowed to return and financial compensation for others; 62.5% oppose a withdrawal to the 1967 borders with land swaps; 58% oppose evacuating settlements except for Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and the settlement blocs; and 50% oppose transferring the Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority with a special arrangement for the holy places.

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) has published its July peace index which shows that Israeli Jews remain deeply pessimistic about the peace process.

Although a majority of Jews say the Israeli government really does want to resume the talks (63pc) and trust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to conduct the negotiations such that Israel’s security will be safeguarded (60pc), 80 percent see the chances of producing a peace agreement now as moderately low or very low. 58 percent believes moreover that there would not be majority support for a peace agreement that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the territories and evacuation of settlements if a referendum were held tomorrow.

Why is this? Well, 64 percent of Israeli Jews do not believe that the Palestinian leadership  genuinely want to resume talks for a final status agreement, on the one hand. But on the other, and this is in some way linked to the first reason, Israeli Jews do not necessarily support the individual components of a peace agreement:

Some 77% oppose Israeli recognition in principle of the right of return, with a small number of Palestinian refugees being allowed to return and financial compensation for others; 62.5% oppose a withdrawal to the 1967 borders with land swaps; 58% oppose evacuating settlements except for Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and the settlement blocs; and 50% oppose transferring the Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority with a special arrangement for the holy places.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The Middle East peace process was officially re-launched on Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry, who appointed Martin Indyk as Washington’s special envoy to the region and the talks. As part of a trust-building exercise and to establish an agenda for talks, Kerry invited the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams — led by Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat — to his home for an iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast.
Ha’aretz’s Barak Ravid adds:

The delegations will also meet with Kerry again in the State Department building Tuesday to continue talks on the principles for conducting the negotiations, the issues up for discussion and a timetable for further meetings. At the end of the day, a joint press statement will be read out by the secretary of state that will officially declare the start of negotiations.

The counters of a settlement between Israel and Palestine are well-known. (Ben Birnbaum mapped it all out earlier for a piece in The New Republic). Security, Jerusalem’s holy places, and refugees can only be decided, however, after the future border between Israel and Palestine is established in principle. This seems a good a time as ever, then, to remind ourselves of the tool the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace created to help explore this problem.
The issue, in essence, is deciding now many Israelis can be incorporated into the State of Israel without wrecking the viability and contiguity of the future Palestinian state. As such, Palestinian negotiators often identify five so-called ‘red-line’ settlements that they believe should be evacuated, Birnbaum reminds us: Givat Ze’ev; Ma’ale Adumim; Efrat; Har Homa; and Ari’el.
In my map, I concur with the PA that Har Homa and Ari’el must be relinquished: the former is placed in an awkward spot relative to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and other settlement blocs, and as such cannot be attached to Israel in a way that won’t harm contiguity. As for Ari’el, it being some kilometres deep into the West Bank would require a large talon of land for incorporation. Again, such a move would not only undermine the wholeness of Palestine but also create an unstable border between the two countries.
As to the others, however, Efrat and Givat Ze’ev form part of larger blocs (Gush Etzion and Jerusalem’s northern suburbs), while Ma’ale Adumim at this point is simply too large to be evacuated — it is not some hilltop settlement inhabited by crazies and loons but a city in its own right full of secular-religious commuters and their families. As such, it must become part of Israel via a connecting road from French Hill and Mt. Scopus, as terrible a solution as that sounds and will be.

The Middle East peace process was officially re-launched on Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry, who appointed Martin Indyk as Washington’s special envoy to the region and the talks. As part of a trust-building exercise and to establish an agenda for talks, Kerry invited the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams — led by Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat — to his home for an iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast.

Ha’aretz’s Barak Ravid adds:

The delegations will also meet with Kerry again in the State Department building Tuesday to continue talks on the principles for conducting the negotiations, the issues up for discussion and a timetable for further meetings. At the end of the day, a joint press statement will be read out by the secretary of state that will officially declare the start of negotiations.

The counters of a settlement between Israel and Palestine are well-known. (Ben Birnbaum mapped it all out earlier for a piece in The New Republic). Security, Jerusalem’s holy places, and refugees can only be decided, however, after the future border between Israel and Palestine is established in principle. This seems a good a time as ever, then, to remind ourselves of the tool the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace created to help explore this problem.

The issue, in essence, is deciding now many Israelis can be incorporated into the State of Israel without wrecking the viability and contiguity of the future Palestinian state. As such, Palestinian negotiators often identify five so-called ‘red-line’ settlements that they believe should be evacuated, Birnbaum reminds us: Givat Ze’ev; Ma’ale Adumim; Efrat; Har Homa; and Ari’el.

In my map, I concur with the PA that Har Homa and Ari’el must be relinquished: the former is placed in an awkward spot relative to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and other settlement blocs, and as such cannot be attached to Israel in a way that won’t harm contiguity. As for Ari’el, it being some kilometres deep into the West Bank would require a large talon of land for incorporation. Again, such a move would not only undermine the wholeness of Palestine but also create an unstable border between the two countries.

As to the others, however, Efrat and Givat Ze’ev form part of larger blocs (Gush Etzion and Jerusalem’s northern suburbs), while Ma’ale Adumim at this point is simply too large to be evacuated — it is not some hilltop settlement inhabited by crazies and loons but a city in its own right full of secular-religious commuters and their families. As such, it must become part of Israel via a connecting road from French Hill and Mt. Scopus, as terrible a solution as that sounds and will be.

Friday, June 28, 2013

If Netanyahu believed in peace, he’d leave the Likud

Depending on when you read this, is it possible that the disembowelling of the Likud by the most fanatical and idiotic of annexationists will have been completed.

The process has been short and swift. Prior to the last election, Likud primary voters selected a party list lousy with reactionary, myopic territorial maximalists: Ze’ev Elkin; Yariv Levin; Tzipi Hotovely; Miri Regev; Moshe Feiglin; and Ofir Akunis. In so doing, Likud voters pushed out a number of Revisionist Zionists who were considered to be too mushy, due in part to their respect of the most basic precepts of domestic and international law and norms: Michael Eitan; Dan Meridor; and Benny Begin.

Chief among those to benefit from the primaries was Danny Danon, a cheap and shallow charlatan and shameless self-promoter whose very name ought to make one’s skin come alive in irritation. Twenty-fourth on the Likud list in 2009, Danon shot up to fifth place in 2013, thus securing ninth place on the joint Likud Beiteinu list and the right after the election to demand for himself a cosy cabinet position.

All this is remarkable considering Danon is an astonishingly vapid and incurious man with no notable legislative or intellectual accomplishments who somehow became a deputy speaker in the last Knesset and Deputy Defence Minister in this one. Indeed, considering his main political proposal consists of annexing most if not all of the West Bank, never mind the Palestinians who live there, one might say his very existence is an anti-intellectual endeavour, or at least one not grounded in the real or substantial.

Danon’s principal interest, in fact, when not propagating land theft or attempting to suppress and denigrate Israel’s minorities is augmenting his international media profile and personal brand, doing whatever is necessary to grab five more minutes of airtime. This unappetising combination of self-aggrandisement and philosophical emptiness was best demonstrated when he considered inviting Glenn Beck – a man who has at the very least flirted with anti-Semitism in his criticism of George Soros – to address the Knesset Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee, about which he knows nothing at all. Only a shameless dope would consider this to be a tasteful or desirable thing to do.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The beginning of the end of the Yugoslav Wars

Initialled on Friday afternoon and approved by both parliaments on Monday morning, the concord between Serbia and Kosovo seems to have so swiftly altered the status quo in the Balkans that it has been presumptuously labelled historic, well before the first condition of that deal has even been implemented.

Brokered by Baroness Ashton and the European External Action Service, the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo is undoubtedly of tremendous significance, since it provides a pathway to the normalisation of relations between two states that have been in a state of antagonism since the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991. Under its terms, Kosovo’s sovereignty will for the first time extend to “every corner of its territory”, as their Prime Minister Hasham Thaçi termed it, with Serbia and Kosovo’s Serb minority recognising the authority of the government in Prishtina over the Serb-majority provinces.

As such, Serbia has agreed to dismantle the parallel institutions it has established in Kosovo which presently control local security, healthcare, education, and the judiciary in the places north of Mitrovica. In return, a new Association of Serb Municipalities will be established, afforded broad powers over local affairs. In particular, the Kosovan government has committed to changing the ethnic composition of the police force and the judiciary to better reflect the balance between the Albanian majority and the Serb minority.

It is not yet guaranteed that this pact will hold, of course, nor the terms implemented. The proposal to dismantle Serbian institutions and accept Prishtina’s sovereignty over Serb areas might still face staunch opposition on the ground in Serbian Kosovo itself, where nationalist sentiment is strong and the tricolour Serb flag flown. But, while it cannot be deemed historic now, this agreement between Kosovo and Serbia does have the potential to be historic. It has the potential to reshape the entire region, and finally bring to a conclusion the bloody ethnic and nationalistic Yugoslav Wars.

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