Only an idiot would say Israel has frozen settlement activity


By Akiva Eldar


Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.(AP)

January 26, 2010

Monday morning, as George Mitchell was on the way home from another
diplomatic mission short on breakthroughs, Saeb Erekat did not sound
dismayed. On the contrary, the head of the Palestinian negotiation team
vehemently argued that the American envoy’s last visit actually moved
up the moment of truth for the White House.

The veteran adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favorite move of throwing
the ball into the Palestinians’ court stopped working with the
Americans.

They are patiently waiting for the prime minister’s answer to two
questions: First, is he ready for the negotiations to pick up where
they left off at the end of the former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s
term? Second, does he accept the principle that the territory
transferred to a Palestinian state will be the same size as the
territory captured by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza during the
Six-Day War.

The international community’s patience, Erekat concluded, is wearing thin.

Erekat is not alone in his thinking. Over the weekend, UN Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon pointed at Israel as not only the one responsible
for the stagnation in the diplomatic process, but also for the thawing
of the freeze on construction in the settlements.

Two months after the government decision on November 26 to freeze
construction in Jewish settlements for 10 months, you’d have to be
blind, an idiot, or a member of the Yesha Council of settlements to use
the term "freeze" to describe the real estate situation in Judea and
Samaria.

Two days ago, when Netanyahu planted a tree in Gush Etzion, he promised
to place many more trees in the Ariel bloc as well, which is 20
kilometers east of the Green Line. In the case of Ariel, Netanyahu kept
his word even before he gave it; as he was speaking yellow bulldozers
were feverishly working on a new site for Ariel’s industrial zone.

The Civil Administration confirmed that the freeze also applied to
industrial and commercial zones, and that surveys conducted last week
in the Ariel region found several violations of the freeze order and an
injunction to halt the construction was even issued. So what?

As mentioned, two days ago Haaretz documented bulldozers at work there
(and also in the Barkan industrial zone). The Civil Administration
spokesman explained that "the enforcement efforts and issuing of
injunctions is done in accordance with all the relevant considerations
and priorities."

It seems that the freeze on the construction of new industrial zones in
national priority zones of the government in the heart of the West Bank
is not at the top of the defense minister’s list of priorities. He
apparently was busy upgrading the status of Ariel University Center of
Samaria.

Netanyahu’s colleagues will probably explain to the Americans that
besides for the settlers, factories also experience natural growth.

Who’s getting called into the office

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud), who has acquired a reputation
as a moderate politician (he was even invited to speak at the most
recent memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin), has his priorities.

The day after remarks by Ram Cohen, the principal of the Tel Aviv Ironi
Alef high school, to the effect that an army must defend borders and
not "the accursed occupation" were published, Sa’ar came out sharply
against the principal’s "preaching" in the Knesset and in the media.

The district supervisor, Dalit Shtauber, was instructed to summon Cohen for a thorough clarification.

Two weeks ago, this column published extensive quotes from an article
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen published in weekly Torah pamphlet, "Shabbat
Beshabbato" which is supported by the Education Ministry and
distributed in hundreds of synagogues.

Rosen wrote that the time has come "’to declare war’ … on Israeli
Arabs… who are not loyal to the state … and to designate them as
‘enemies.’"

He called for their removal from main traffic arteries and for their
right to vote for and be elected to the Knesset to be taken away.

"His brothers" on the Jewish left and some High Court of Justice
judges, who identify with them, were also referred to as "enemies."

The day after the article appeared, I asked the ministry if the
taxpayers, including Israeli Arabs and also "enemy brothers" will
continue funding the printing of the pamphlet that incites against them.

The response of the Education Ministry’s spokesman, Hagit Cohen, arrived Monday.

She stated that following Haaretz’s query, the ministry’s director
general asked Rabbi Rosen for clarification. In a letter to the
director general, Rabbi Rosen explained that he appreciates the
contribution of loyal Arab Israelis to the state and primarily those
among them who volunteer to do military and national service.

The rabbi added that his remarks should have been worded more
appropriately and that "as one educated in the centrist stream of
religious Zionism, I would not want to collectively tarnish anyone’s
reputation based on nationality or ethnic origin."

In Sa’ar’s defense, it may be said that while right-wing Knesset
members made a big fuss about Cohen’s remarks, in the case of Rosen,
the Labor and Meretz party members did not trouble the minister.

Shalom didn’t do it

A thorough review of the case of the appointment of Alon Pinkas as
ambassador to the UN found that even though Silvan Shalom has an
account to settle with Pinkas dating from their time in the foreign
minister’s bureau, the Likud members’ petition against the appointment
is not connected to Shalom’s vow to get back at the former consul
general in New York.

You could say that Shalom’s work was done by others; the prime minister
has reasonable cause to oppose the favored candidate of Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman. It has nothing to do with the relationship
between Netanyahu and businessman Sheldon Adelson and his free
newspaper, Israel Hayom. Given the embarrassing humiliation of the
Turkish ambassador, it is regrettable that no one upheld Shalom’s old
vow to stop Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon

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