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Israel in the Hot Seat Again — for Building Homes

Vice President Joe Biden condemns a new Israeli settlement plan.

by
P. David Hornik

Bio

March 11, 2010 - 12:00 am

Here we go again. What has Israel done now? With Vice President Joe Biden here for a visit, the Israeli Interior Ministry “announced that approval had been granted to build new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox community of 20,000 north of downtown Jerusalem, which borders the Palestinian village of Shuafat.” Biden reacted to the shocking news with: “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of [Israeli-Palestinian] proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”

Other condemnations followed like clockwork. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman made known that “the secretary-general condemns the approval of plans for the building of 1,600 new housing units in east Jerusalem.” Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that “it is now clear that the Israeli government is not interested in negotiating, nor is it interested in peace.” He added that “massive American pressure is required in order to compel Israel to abandon its peace-destroying behavior.”

There were even condemnations — and apologies — from within Israel itself. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was reported to be “angry” at the Interior Ministry’s announcement, and his office called it “damaging” to negotiations with the Palestinians. Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog called it a “big error in government bureaucracy that should never have happened.”

Indeed, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said: “If I’d have known, I would have postponed the authorization by a week or two since we had no intention of provoking anyone. It is definitely unpleasant that this happened during Biden’s visit. … I apologize for the distress this matter caused.”

Israel, though, seems unable to keep itself out of hot water of this kind. Last November President Obama said Israel’s intention to build 900 apartments in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo “makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbors. I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous.” And in February Israel’s announcement that it was including the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem in a list of “heritage sites” touched off condemnations by the U.S., the UN, the EU, and others — and a week of violent Palestinian rioting ensued.

In all this period there was — as usual — a total absence of public criticism of the Palestinian Authority from these same sources. Why? Was it because, in contrast to Israel’s constant alleged breaches of propriety, the PA’s behavior was without blemish?

Not exactly. In December an Israeli father of seven was murdered in a drive-by shooting by terrorists belonging to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, part of PA president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement. After Israeli forces found and killed three of the terrorists, Abbas called them shahids (martyrs) and sent his personal emissary to visit their families. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad went further, visiting the families himself and “condemn[ing] the Israeli military operation” — not the terrorists, whom the Fatah movement called “brave heroes and fighters.”

In February an EU-trained Palestinian policeman stabbed an Israeli soldier to death at a checkpoint. Hardly an isolated incident, it was part of a “trend” of fatal terror attacks by American- and European-trained Palestinian security personnel. Condemnations? A rethink of the policy of training and empowering Palestinian security forces for the future Palestinian state that would nestle right up against Israel’s population centers? Of course not.

In January the PA announced that it was naming a square in Ramallah after Dalal al-Mughrabi, the female Palestinian terrorist who led the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, the worse terror attack in Israeli history. Israel registered official complaints with the U.S. The formal dedication of the square is set to occur on Thursday — on the 32nd anniversary of the attack. The Israeli Foreign Ministry states: “There has been no public comment from the Obama administration about the PA’s honoring of the terrorist.”

This picture is skewed — badly. Are Israeli actions like building homes for Jews in Jerusalem, or refurbishing shrines for the good of both Jews and Muslims who pray in them, really objectionable in themselves? Of course not. They’re “objectionable” because they make Palestinians angry — as a vanguard of the Arab/Muslim world, which is much larger and wields much more economic power than Israel.

If that explanation doesn’t seem right, then how could it be that truly objectionable actions by the Palestinians — committing murder, glorifying the murderers, dedicating a public site to a massacre — evoke nary a peep from the same parties that rush to condemn Israel?

That international bodies like the UN and the EU are deeply in the thrall of dhimmitude before Muslim power is probably an irremediable situation. One can still hope that the United States, with its far stronger moral credentials, can one day stop the charade of hectoring its ally Israel and excusing true outrages.


P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the new book Choosing Life in Israel. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/
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