Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a directive on Monday to advance the construction of more than 1,000 new housing units in Jerusalem. According to the plan, 660 apartments will be built in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood and 400 will be built in Har Homa.
The European Union will strongly object to any new announcements of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, a senior EU diplomat told Channel 10 on Thursday.
The unnamed diplomat said “there will be very little understanding from the European governments” if Israel plans to announce further construction beyond the Green Line next week following the release of a third group of Palestinian security prisoners. Read more here.
Despite losing some ground to the new HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) party and a resurgent Labor Party, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s combined Likud-Yisrael Beitneu ticket is expected to win the election, and he will remain as prime minister. In an interview on the eve of the general elections in Israel, Netanyahu made it clear that as Israel’s reelected leader, he would not uproot major Jewish communities just beyond the pre-1967 lines.
“I think that there is recognition that ultimately there has to be a real and fair solution, and that certainly doesn’t include driving out hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in the suburbs of Jerusalem, and in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, in the Ariel bloc,” Netanyahu said in an interview from his Jerusalem office, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Netanyahu reaffirmed that these communities would be part of Israel in any peace deal with the Palestinians. “There is a common acceptance that the so-called settlement blocs will remain part of Israel in any settlement,” Netanyahu said.
However, despite the focus on construction in these areas, Netanyahu told a group of visiting U.S. Senators on Sunday that the real problem is not Jews building houses, but Iran. “The problem in the Middle East is Iran’s attempt to build nuclear weapons … This was, and remains, the main mission facing not only myself and Israel, but the entire world,” Netanyahu said according to the Associated Press.
In the interview, Netanyahu also addressed concerns regarding a report by American columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in which President Obama is quoted as saying, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” Netanyahu responded he is “confident that President Obama understands that only a sovereign Israeli government can determine what Israel’s interests are.”
JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is insisting that he would defend the Jewish settlement enterprise on the ancient Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria, but a day later he was expected to fire any cabinet ministers that backed a bill that would actually protect such communities.
Speaking to Likud activists at a party conference, Netanyahu was adamant that the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria “enjoy the support and appreciation of the Likud government.”
The Likud conference was held just days before a party primary in which Netanyahu’s leadership is being challenged by party activist Moshe Feiglin who is gaining broad popularity among so-called “Jewish settlers” for his unwavering stand in defense of their right to settle Israel’s biblical heartland.
Feiglin has repeatedly called Netanyahu a hypocrite and will likely do so again ahead of the primary vote, aruging that while Netanyahu publicly promised to protect the settlements he intimidated fellow Likud ministers to vote against a new law that would make it illegal to uproot most Jewish communities.
Authored by minister Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home Party), the “Outpost Law” would prevent the forced evacuation of any Jewish settlement that had been in existence for at least four years and was inhabited by at least 20 families. Those conditions would retroactively legalize a large number of “illegal outposts” – small Jewish communities – many of which were established with government backing but which lacked official authorization by the Defense Ministry.
The bill also demands that any Palestinian claims to the lands on which such outposts are built must be backed up by actual evidence in order to receive a favorable ruling in Israeli courts. Israel’s Supreme Court is in the habit of ruling in favor of Palestinian claimants based on little more than cursory evidence.
Netanyahu has staunchly opposed the bill as it would put him in a sticky situation vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and likely open Israel up to a new wave of harsh international criticism. As such, it was widely rumored that Netanyahu had threated to fire from the cabinet any Likud minister who voted in favor of the bill in the Knesset plenum where the bill was expected to be officially presented later this week.
Without the backing of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which Netanyahu has purposely kept away from the bill, it has a much reduced chance of passing in the Knesset.
In what appears to be a flip from his much-criticized remarks about Israel returning to the ’67 boundaries, President Obama is recognizing that the Israeli settlement blocs must be within any negotiated boundary with the Palestinians.