US building freeze deal will include Jerusalem

Sunday, November 21, 2010 |  Ryan Jones

The 90-day building freeze the Obama Administration is asking Israel to accept in return for a bag of goodies (read: bribe) will include the eastern half of Jerusalem, contrary to original reports on the proposal.

A senior American diplomat confirmed to Israel’s Ha’aretz daily newspaper that Israel will not be able to build in the Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem or demolish illegally-built Arab homes if it wants increased US support at the UN, more recognition of Israeli security demands, and possibly 20 new F-35 fighter jets.

But the wording is expected to be deceptive. According to the report, the US-Israeli deal will not explicitly prohibit Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem, but the White House will nevertheless look to Israel to fulfill that Palestinian demand.

Right-wing Israeli lawmakers have been yelling for the past week that the US proposal is a trap, and that despite US promises that no further freeze will be asked for beyond these 90 days, previous American “guarantees” have proved otherwise.

What’s worse is that if the US presses for Israel to also stop demolishing illegally built Arab homes, that means the Palestinians may initiate a massive building rush in Jerusalem. Already, local Arabs building hundreds to thousands of housing units every year in the Israeli capital without proper authorization and building permits. Due to Israel’s desire to not be too harshly condemned in the international arena, very few of those houses are removed.

Signaling that he liked the way things were starting to go, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday declared that there would be no resumption of peace talks unless a Jewish building freeze in Jerusalem is part of the US proposal. Since the goal of the freeze to facilitate a resumption of direct peace talks, Washington is expected to fully back Abbas’ position.

Thousands of Israelis demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Sunday to demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reject the American proposal. Netanyahu is currently in favor of accepting the deal, believing that it will provide Israel the moral and diplomatic upper hand, and expose the Palestinians as the true obstacle to peace.

Past prime ministers have made similar errors, like Ariel Sharon in uprooting the 10,000 Jews of Gaza.

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